What exactly is a concept store and why do you want to create one?
I've heard that question a lot over the last few months and just in case you might feel the need to ask me, I thought I'd write down a few thoughts here.
For a long time, I didn't know what was meant by a concept store. I just knew I loved the concept. The first time I walked into Anthropologie on George Street in Edinburgh, I was blown away. I soon became lost in the beauty of the displays. I could have stayed all day. I didn't know how or why, I just knew this was a place that appealed to my soul. Waiting outside the changing rooms for my friend, I got into conversation with the sales assistant and was introduced to the concept of a concept store. From then on, I was hooked. Every time I travelled to London for work. I would search out a new concept store to visit, most recently Wolf & Badger in Coal Drops Yard by Kings Cross. In fact, so many of the stores in Coal Drops Yard are stunning.
Looking back, I can't remember how I came to choose a concept store for my protagonist Kristina to work at in my second novel 'embrace'. I was fortunate enough to spend a long weekend in Antwerp with my niece, visiting loads of cool places - all for research! - and I fell in love with YOUR, a massive concept store on various levels with a memorable section devoted to a colour palette of shoes by Noë.
'Even on a walking dead Tuesday like today, this particular wall of shoes never failed to raise a smile. The row along the top shelf was the reason Kristina was here at all, which was strange, really, because she wouldn't particularly describe herself as a shoe person. Not like most of her friends anyway. She rarely saw a pair of shoes that she even liked. But this was different. This was a totally new concept. A classic leather court shoe - not something she would ever choose to wear - available in over seventy different colours, lined up perfectly like shades on a paint chart. It was art.' Page 28, 'embrace'
The novel chronicles three years of Kristina's life and by her thirty third birthday, the traumatic events of the previous years have changed her. She's not the person she was before. She returns to the UK - spoiler alert! - and opens her own shop where 'Nothing was new and yet everything was new. One corner at the back housed the collection that had yet to be worked on. She called it 'the blank canvas corner'.'
So I'm not Kristina and the Green Heart Showcase is not her space, and yet that's the concept I embrace right there (7 years after publishing my novel): Nothing is new and yet everything is new. I believe that to change the world, we have to find a way to stop buying new. I don't just mean clothes. I mean gifts and homeware and soft furnishings and shoes and accessories and books and self care items....And I wholeheartedly believe that that can be a joyful, beautiful, life-giving experience. That's my dream. That's my concept.
A concept store is built on a concept. It combines the aesthetic with the functional. It introduces art and beauty and creativity into the space. It works as a thematic journey.
'In my opinion, and following my numerous interviews with concept store owners, this is a multi-brand point of sale, with a selection of products that match with a thematic universe, a philosophy of life, and/or a particular lifestyle. These stores are not just places to buy, they are places of learning and inspiration.' From 'What is a Concept Store?' by Mathilde
The Green Heart Showcase will not simply be a place to buy stuff. There are loads of places like that out there already. Rather, it will be a welcoming and stimulating place to meet, to linger, to inspire and encourage one another, surrounded by a community committed to values, passions, and common interests. And yes, you won't be able to leave without buying something, because our curated collection of clothing, homeware, book, wellbeing items, vintage and antique treasures will embrace the beautiful, the original, the quirky and the creative - there's sure to be something especially for you!
Our aim is to reduce waste to landfill. To that end, we're working to create an affordable, sustainable and immensely satisfying retail experience for all – both in the Green Heart Showcase in Gateshead and online at greenheartcollective.uk. There is a joy to be found in buying preloved. There is a joy to be found in buying nothing new.
We're here to help you discover that joy for yourself.