I thought I would pick Jessica Whiting's brain on the topic as a seller, craft market veteran, Auckland Art & Craft Fair organiser, founder of Foxes shop of design & wonderment and all-round know-it-all in the NZ craft and indie design scene. Jess makes some great points on the role of personal style in handmade success…
I always try and wear something that someone I know (or stock) has made. I have an unhealthy obsession with brooches so I usually have one on. My favourites are a Dear Colleen custom black rosette with my name on it that she made for me earlier this year and some works from Cheek Pinchy — nearly every accessory on my dresser has been made by someone I know; I am so lucky to know so many clever and talented people! I think that it's important to practice what I preach; I always promote my artists works by showing that I genuinely do like what they make and buy it myself, I choose things for the store that I would like to own or already do own.
How important do you find what you wear to events? It's like being the lead in a play — which sounds so cheesy! But you are playing a character, you are your own brand and people need to instantly recognise that. At the same time, it's so easy as my work is me to a tee so it's not hard to dress as yourself! I do make a conscious effort though in my choices when I get up in the morning for a market or a publicity meeting; I may not be working in an office anymore or need my suits, but I still have to keep up appearances.
As a market organiser and longtime stall holder do you notice those that make an effort? Absolutely! Quite often I only deal with people via e-mail or phone, or you read their blog or shop their on-line store so there is minimal physical contact. When you finally meet that person in 'real life' you have sort of built them up in your mind and it can be quite strange when they look so different to what you expect! That's only happened to me a couple of times, I think that most indie designers or crafters are pretty open and honest about who they are and their appearance naturally reflects that.
Is there anyone you think of who really 'IS' their brand? I think that Gem and Nathan Speeden from Hunter Gatherer are an extension of their brand, but again that is because the brand came from them. They always look fantastic behind their table, totally at one with their work.
Thank you to Jess for sharing her thoughts!
With all this in mind I've put together a couple of points to consider if you're wanting to brand yourself a little better at your next market or event.
- Take a look at your display, who would you like to see standing behind it or (even better) what would make a great photo (your photo will inevitably be taken).
- Interpret and reinterpret. It's not about being ridiculous you can be fashionable, stylish and comfortable and still be incredibly effective. For example if you sell children's toys, you don't need to stick one on your head, but think about the colours, the textures and the overall theme of your brand.
- Practice what you preach. If you can, wear what you sell. Be inspirational. You wouldn't sell make-up with a bare face, the same rule applies here.
- A market is a step away from reality: it is not an office. Shoppers aren't there because they have to be. They're there because they really want to be. It's a happy place, so have fun. Markets are full of visual delights, don't be afraid to be one of them yourself!