Get our FREE quarterly e-zine Seek Inspire Create
Search
Close this search box.
May 31, 2024 —

Shopkeeper Spotlight: AARVEN

Adventure-lovers Bee Friedmann and Amy Fleuriot-Reade founded ethical homeware and jewellery brand AARVEN, bringing artisanal goods from around the world to their Margate store and beyond…
Inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate
Bee Friedmann and Amy Fleuriot-Reade inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate
Shelley Welti
91 Magazine online content editor,

Photography

Ben Broomfield
Photographer,
Save & share

Hi Bee and Amy! First things first; how did you both come together? 

Bee: Amy and I met walking our dogs, Hiro and Wolf as puppies in London Fields in Hackney. We both lived either side of the park and there was a group of new dog owners who would congregate and share stories while the pups played. Amy had recently graduated from London College of Fashion and was running her cycle fashion brand, Cyclodelic, and I had a shop on Columbia Road and a stall on Broadway Market selling African crafts.

I had always wanted to work with a designer to elevate the crafts I had been sourcing for two decades from my home continent, so I invited Amy to visit Kenya with me in the Spring of 2010. We adventured across Kenya together for 6 weeks, visiting rural weavers and Fair Trade artisan workshops. This trip inspired us to start our first brand, Hiro + Wolf, which was initially accessories for pets in bright African wax fabrics and Fair Trade jewellery for people, handmade from recycled brass. A few years later we separated the brands with Hiro + Wolf becoming just for pets and AARVEN (meaning ‘friend of the people’) was able to grow into the lifestyle brand it is today. 

Bee Friedmann and Amy Fleuriot-Reade inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

 When did you decide to open the store? 

Amy: We opened our Margate store in 2017. I had recently moved to Margate where I was fortunate enough to be able to buy my first home, having been priced out of London. There was a real buzz about the area with lots of creatives moving to the coast to discover new opportunities. Our store on Columbia Road Flower Market was thriving and when a beautiful, double fronted retail space came up for rent in Margate Old Town we decided to take the plunge and open up our second shop. Bee soon followed, relocating to Margate too, and when Covid hit it made sense for us to close the London shop and focus our efforts on Margate. We love it here and feel very lucky to have made the move. 

 What had you both done before? Did any of these skills help?

Bee: I grew up in South Africa and since moving to the UK in 1986 I have always been drawn back to the continent to source from the incredible artisans there. During my time in London I ran my own cafe, gallery and retail stores and also worked as Events Manager for The Design Museum. I am well versed in the challenges of rural settlements and wanted to use my skills in sourcing, logistics and retail to help create a reliable income for artisans who would not otherwise have access to the international market. We like to work directly so that we know wages are paid fairly and working conditions are fair, so I travel to meet every artisan or group in person and set up local networks to manage logistics.

 

“We like to work directly so that we know wages are paid fairly and working conditions are fair, so I travel to meet every artisan or group in person and set up local networks to manage logistics.”


Amy
: Before meeting Bee I had been running my own business which was part accessories brand, part events company, all aimed at engaging more women with cycling. I was stocked by major high street retailers including Topshop and Harrods and organised large events in partnership with local authorities, schools and charities. I had graduated from a degree in Accessories design and had studied millinery before that, as well as clothing and jewellery. My multi-disciplinary design background, in addition to the business and marketing knowledge gained from running my first business gave me the skills to start AARVEN. Running your own business is always an ongoing learning adventure and one thing I have learnt is that perseverance is key! Inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

Woven baskets inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

How did you decide on the name? 

Amy: When we originally split our pet accessories off from everything else, our name for our new lifestyle brand was ‘Artisans & Adventurers’. This perfectly described what we did but we came to realise it was just a bit too long! We knew we were due a rebrand and wanted a shorter name that would have meaning and still resonate with our existing customers. We began playing around with our existing letters and came up with ‘Arven’. A Germanic word meaning ‘friend of the people’, which we instantly loved, as for us, people and our global family of artisans are at the heart of what we do. We added an extra ‘a’ to the start as a nod to our original name to make AARVEN. 

 How would you describe the interior style of the store? 

Bee: Global maximalist. We love colour, we love pattern, we love the texture of things that are truly made by hand and this is expressed throughout our store. However, we also like to show through careful curation and our photoshoots that our products can look just as beautiful in a more minimal or Scandi style setting. 

Ethically made rugs inside sustainable homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, MargateFox figures inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

Tell us about the range of products you stock… 

Bee: We design our products in collaboration with over 30 artisan groups across six different countries so there is a lot on offer! Our collections include hand cast door knockers and hooks from Ghana, colourful FSC certified paper light shades, unique hand loomed wall hangings which are truly pieces of art, Fair Trade incense, baskets from four countries in all shapes and sizes, gold-tone brass jewellery and soft furnishings and decorations to bring a little joy into every corner of your home. 

What does a ‘normal’ day look like? 

Bee: I walk my two dogs, Wolf and Squirrel down to the beach and meet with friends for an early morning cold water swim before warming up at one of Margate’s many fantastic coffee shops, Oast and Cliffs are particular favourites. I aim to get into the office around 9am or a little later if I need to take a trip to our storage unit to collect stock for a wholesale client. I’ll then be catching up with our team on any customer enquiries before touching base with our artisans to check on samples for new designs and chasing up on our stock orders. I work mainly on WhatsApp with our artisans as this technology is easier for them to use and so I have literally hundreds of conversations to keep on top of. Amy and I will touch base on what has been selling well and work on new designs and orders together. 

Amy: I like to get up early to meditate and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee before my three year old son wakes up. My husband and I split the childcare between us so my day is always split between work and play! My role is very varied so I could be designing our new collections, liaising with our Marketing Manager, Leona, on our content calendar or planning and editing photoshoots or looking over cash flows and production orders with Bee. It really keeps me on my toes and I am always learning new things, which I love the challenge of. Inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

Ethical jewellery inside sustainable homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

How do you choose artisans to work with?

Bee: I am always on the lookout for new artisan groups to work with that fit with our values and quality. I’ll start with doing research online, often using google images and then identify local partners who might be able to help on the ground. Once I have a good starting point in a country I’ll travel out there in person to meet with different artisans and bring back samples for Amy to see. We’ll then test the artisans skills with some of our own designs to see how they respond and things grow from there. 

Amy: AARVEN is stocked through some fantastic stores in the UK and internationally. We are very fortunate that many have come direct to us either through discovering us through our social accounts, printed media or by visiting our store. We are always open to working with any retailers that share our values and enthusiasm for promoting authentically crafted goods with a beautiful story. 

Which item is your bestseller? 

Bee: Our lightshade collection has been flying out this year. The recycled origami paper shades are really affordable and fun and our Ghanaian woven light shades are totally unique and cast the most beautiful light around a room. Inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

What items are your personal can’t-live-withouts? 

Amy: I have several custom rugs and wall hangings that I have designed for my home and had made by Julious, an incredibly talented weaver in Nairobi, Kenya, whom we have been working with for over a decade. I’ve become very close to him and his family over the years and every time I step foot on one it makes me smile. 

Bee:  I am a self confessed ‘basket case’! I just can’t get enough of them. I’ve collected them from each place I travel to and use them for everything from laundry to accessories, dog toys and fruit and vegetables. 

 What do you enjoy most about running the store? 

Bee:  I love sharing the stories of our artisans with our customers. It brings me great joy to connect people with all of the wonderful products we have designed and to know that I can place new orders with our communities when pieces sell well. 

Amy: I really enjoy merchandising the shop and windows as well as interacting with our customers. It’s great to get that immediate feedback from customers which can help inform our designs and spark new ideas.

 

“It brings me great joy to connect people with all of the wonderful products we have designed…”

Woven baskets inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

Ethically made homeware inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

 What has been your career highlight so far? 

Amy: Having our products stocked by the V&A for their Africa Fashion exhibition was a hugely emotional experience. It was my Granny’s favourite museum and we used to visit together every month when I was studying in London. I kept thinking how proud she would have been. It was also a big order for our artisans, we sold out in the first week of the show opening so had to quickly order more. The exhibition is now moving to the NGV in Melbourne and we will be supplying them too. 

Bee: Travelling to Bolgatanga in Northern Ghana to meet our weavers there in 2017 was a huge highlight for me. I had always wanted to visit Ghana and I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received. I spent several hours helping local women build their rammed earth houses, sat with weavers underneath the shade of giant baobabs tree learning from their craft and got to pick out my favourite colourful baskets and fans to bring back to our store. 

 What is the neighbourhood like around the store? 

Amy: Margate is a-buzz with independent shops, restaurants and galleries. We are hugely fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community. 

Woven baskets inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, MargateWooden toys inside ethical homeware and jewellery store AARVEN, Margate

What do you wish you’d known before opening the store? Any advice for those thinking about opening their own shop? 

Bee: When I started with my first retail store in 1993 it used to take me hours to redo our displays as I’d had no training in visual merchandising. I’ve now honed these skills and better understand the psychology behind displays and product placement. 

Amy: Hiring staff and managing employees was a steep learning curve for me and is an ongoing journey. We are so lucky to have such a brilliant, caring team of individuals working with us which makes things a joy!

34 King St, Margate

aarven.com

@aarvengoods

Sign up for more articles

Join the 91 Magazine mailing list and we’ll send you our favourite articles, updates from our shop, news on the magazine and select promotions & offers.

More stories like this one

Inside Lifestory, Edinburgh a Scandi-inspired lifestyle store
Bringing a dose of Scandinavian and Japanese design to Edinburgh and online, alongside complementary UK design, Lifestory’s considered offering has a beautifully…

New in 91 Magazine

A Home for all Seasons, book by Kay Prestney and Becca Cherry
Create a home that evolves naturally with nature, with this new book, A Home for all Seasons. We take a look inside… …

Recipe: Strawberry Chia Jam

Love What You Do: Paulina Atkinson of Organic Zoo

Books to nourish your creativity

Meet the Maker: Gina Maldonado

Home tour: Sarah Adams

Styling your spring table with soft, natural colour

Small Business Stories: Ali Mackie

Recipe: Miso mushroom & chickpea pies

Love What You Do: Raluca Vaduva of Detail Movement Interiors

Seek Create Inspire

Subscribe to the 91 Magazine mailing list

Subscribe for our free quarterly e-zine packed independent shops and cafes, interiors ideas, delicious recipes and DIY projects.

We’ll also send you regular articles, offers, shop promotions and competitions (but never spam).