Thursday 4 November 2010


In the pre-Christmas rush of the craft market crush what is it that gets you and your stall noticed? With so many beautiful things and hoards of customers even the most exquisite products can sometimes get overlooked. It is so important that your products and more importantly your brand is looking it's best and that includes you. When people choose to buy handmade they have a connection to the person who made it and to them, you ARE your brand. Personal appearance is so important and the way you dress could change someones mood. Call me fickle but I've honestly been swayed many a time by an enthusiastic and well-dressed seller all because they inspired me.

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
A smile goes miles (but you knew that).Because a picture speaks a thousand words (and I've already written about 1000 of them) I thought I'd finish up today with a bit of visual inspiration from one of this week's featured etsy sellers Shan Shan from TinyToadstool. Shan Shan has both a vintage shop and a handmade shop selling her (very cute) knitted accessories. However what really made me ooh and ahh was Shan Shan's personal style lookbooks. Her distinct, pretty style totally embodies TinyToadstool and visa versa, she really is her brand and it's addictive.
It's a personal choice as to how far you like to go with this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject (both buyers and sellers) and you can nominate your own best dressed too if you like.


  1. It sure is a good look to see a seller proudly wearing something they've made.
    As a hobby crafter, it was only when I felt completely comfortable wearing jewellery I'd made myself that I felt comfortable selling it to someone else. If you're not going to wear your own creation, why expect someone else to?

  2. I think that's a really good point Sarah, I alway feel too shy, I tried wearing my rosettes from time to time but get so embarrassed when someone talks to me about them that I've stop. I loved looking at the effort so many of the seller at craft2.0 put into dressing in their brand colours and looking pretty as a picture:)

  3. I know what you mean with the rosettes - even just holding the one you gave me in my hand last Saturday I got so many comments on it from random people there! They really do attract attention :)

  4. yeah those dam rosette are little trouble makers - in my head they have always been more art than fashion. The first one I make was about 50cm and framed in a box fame - I'm really sad now that I sold it there's a small chance it will be worth some money one day:)

  5. I think that is a really good point about if you wouldn't wear it yourself...why should other people...
    But I'm also with Colleen on the shyness thing! I can't really speak from experience as I don't make anything I could wear but I do feel funny about my own stuff, it makes me shy and awkward...I guess its just a case of getting over myself! :-)
    Do send me photos of yourselves everyone! It's fun to share

  6. wear something that makes you feel happy and comfortable. Fairs are long days, if you have a bad fair being comfy and happy about what you wear is important, if you have a good fair the same goes.

    I have felt happy wearing basic black, wearing other peoples jewellery, wearing fake pearls, dressing up ..... As long as you look smart and not frumpy (avoiding sweat shirts, track pants or bulky cardys is a good start) and feel happy about yourself you'll be fine.

    Dress for your fair just as most people adjust what they sell at each fair. If you are at an outdoor fair, the most important thing is - keeping warm in winter, keeping cool and not sunburnt in summer.

    On the shy thing and wearing your own stuff, i slowly (on the firm advice of friends) encouraged myself into it, initially it was hard - i felt i was showing off and being pushy. I think it's a nice attribute to have, nobody likes someone who is overselling.

  7. I really love my Dear Colleen Rosettes! I do get some weird comments from people, but they are so cool and lots of people appreciate them. Old ladies tend to think that you have won a prize.... which can also work in your favour! Haha