Brighton’s Independent Boutiques

A destination for day-trippers, it’s not just Brighton’s world-famous pier and pebble beach which draws the crowds. Home to an unparalleled amount of independent businesses, these one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, cafes and venues have given the town its unique colour and a reputation that keeps visitors returning, rain or shine.

While you can’t always rely on the sun to make an appearance in Brighton, you can always rely on its community of independent shops to shine bright on its high streets. Fortunately the sun was beaming for our trip south to visit our community of independent boutiques.

Workshop

With an emphasis on simplicity and functionality, Workshop has very clearly defined aesthetic principles which lie at the core of the shop’s success. This is thanks to the creative vision of the co-owners, Jayson and Ryan, who still source every product they stock and who are responsible for creating the stunning in-store visual merchandising displays.

With a SOH Melbourne candle burning in our favourite scent (fig tree) we explored Workshop and talked to Jayson about Brighton’s independent community.

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Tell us about the background of your boutique and why you opened it.

The vision for Workshop was to share our influences in simple design and everyday living. The intention is to present carefully curated products that are both practical and simple in form and function. Workshop is about providing home, lifestyle and fashion products that contribute to simple, uncomplicated, everyday living. Our store is aimed at like-minded people who appreciate our values and aesthetic.

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Who inspires you?

We are continually inspired by creatives past and present who are influenced by or who influence a timeless aesthetic, always with a nod to simplicity in design and function. Dieter Rams and John Pawson are huge influential to us.

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What do you predict for the future of retail?

Retail is becoming much more interactive in terms of social networking and online communication. The key for independents in this environment is to embrace these powerful tools whilst remaining authentic. ‘Local’ will no longer be defined by distance but rather a retailer’s unique communication in a global community.

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What is the best thing about your boutique?

We have absolute creative freedom in terms of what we buy and how we promote it. There is no more satisfying feeling than when our customers and friends react positively to our choices.

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Why Brighton? What do you love about it?

Brighton has a lively acceptance of creativity. Many stores in the city centre are independent retailers which is not the norm within the UK.

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What are your favourite independent businesses (cafes, shops, bars etc) in Brighton?

Our Daily Edit for a fashion fix, The Plant Room for coffee, Utility for everyday home essentials, Homage for simple Scandi-inspired wares, Curry Leaf for the best curry in town, Bincho for Japanese, Plateau for a glass of wine.

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How has Brighton’s shopping scene changed in the last few years?

Brighton has embraced the local trend and we are continually seeing more independent businesses opening across shopping, food and drink.

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How do you see the independent community changing here?

Although by nature independents will continue to open with a unique point of view, we think we will see more independents offering similar and complimentary products to each other, influenced by trends and also an increase in like-minded shoppers in the city.

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Discover Workshop on Trouva.

Homage

Husband and wife duo Mark and Liza founded Homage in 2011 in London before swapping the pavements of Stoke Newington for Brighton’s pebble beach. It was a homecoming for Liza who had spent her childhood in Brighton as her parents owned and ran a cafe in the North Laines, long before coffee culture existed.

Filled with products crafted in earthen tones and natural materials and finished with a flourish of palm prints, a visit to Homage transports you somewhere much more tropical than Brighton.

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We were both experienced fashion merchandisers who met whilst working in the clothing industry. We soon realised that a corporate career didn’t suit us and with a shared dream of owning our own homeware boutique, Homage was established in 2011.

Who inspires you?

Within retail, other independent business owners inspire us. It’s not easy and its constant hard work running your own business, we have so much respect to everyone who is doing their own thing, like us, and loving it.

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What do you predict for the future of retail?

Running a bricks-and-mortar store is becoming more challenging year after year. Businesses must adapt, and nowadays being ‘just a shop’ isn’t enough. Some of the best boutiques in town, and on Trouva, are not just high street stores – they’ll have several strings to their bow and that’s exciting, but never forget your loyal shop customers.

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What is the best thing about your boutique?

With our relocation, it was a great chance to completely rethink our look, branding and product. We’re really pleased with our new shop space and stock curation. Regularly customers comment on how relaxing, calming a space it is as well complementing the aesthetic of our range.

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Why Brighton? What do you love about it?

Even though we met whilst living in London and opened our first store in London, we always wanted to eventually relocate ourselves and the business to Brighton. It’s location by the sea and amazing countryside yet only an hour from central London is unbeatable. Brighton isn’t a very big town, so to have so much going on in a relatively small space is fantastic. Independent shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, the festivals, music, beach, art scene, liberal community – what’s not to love!

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What are your favourite independent businesses (cafes, shops, bars etc) in Brighton?

As newcomers to the Brighton independent business scene, the guys at Our Daily Edit and Workshop Living have been ever so welcoming and they are two of the best stores in town. With regards to bars and cafes there are way too many to choose from, we’ll carry on with our ‘research’ and get back to you about that one…

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How has Brighton’s shopping scene changed in the last few years?

Seven Dials has seen a substantial change over the past few years. With new independent shops such as ourselves, cafes, pubs and restaurants opening on a regular basis. Because of the extremely high rents and rates pricing out start-ups and independents in the traditional city centre locations, they are looking for viable alternatives and that is why pockets of Brighton like Seven Dials are now becoming destinations themselves.

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How do you see the independent community changing here?

Brighton has a rich and long tradition of being a hub for independent business. That won’t change any time soon, it’s so much part of the fabric of the city and why locals and visitors love it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t challenge for independents. Being able and opened minded to necessary change is what will keep indies thriving in Brighton, alongside always being true to what your business is, what owners are passionate about and providing customers a genuinely unique offering.

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Discover Homage on Trouva.

Dowse

Founded by Susannah Dowse, a trained artist, she opened shop as a space to showcase her own work alongside designs from artists and makers from across Europe. Colour and craft take centre stage at Dowse in Brighton, in fact the shop is still home to Susannah’s studio where she designs her own range of eye-catching prints and graphic jewellery.

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I’m a designer with a background in fashion & illustration. I studied fine art but decided to pursue design rather than art. I‘d previously been running an online shop selling my own designs. I decided to open a bricks-and-mortar shop in order to have more direct relationship with our customers. I wanted to create a curated space to showcase the work of other independent designers whose aesthetic and ethos complimented my own work.

Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by anyone going it alone, building something special from scratch with passion and conviction.

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What do you predict for the future of retail?

For independents I think it’s all about the experience; how people feel in the space you create and how they relate to you. With our shop it’s often about the story behind the products we sell that people seem really engaged in. I think this is becoming a bigger part of how people shop now. They care more and more about how something was made and by whom. Creating an environment that allows this story to be told best will become increasingly important to us.

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What is the best thing about your boutique?

Being able to have a conversation directly with our customers and seeing how they respond to our designs is the best thing about my shop. It’s really interesting to hear people talking about the pieces and what we learn from a little bit of eavesdropping helps guide our new designs.

I’m convinced at least 30% of people come in just to see my dog Louis! He’s become a bit of a local celebrity. He has a little port hole to keep an eye on the comings and goings and people love to make a fuss of him when he sticks his head through the hole.

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Why Brighton? What do you love about it?

I came to study art here many moons ago and the things that initially attracted me to it remain the same as way back when. It’s got a great independent spirit and always feels like it’s evolving. The community really supports and cherishes independent businesses which is great. Plus it’s a great blend of a city and a seaside town and it’s really hard to beat in the summer when you shut the shop and head straight down the beach for the evening sun.

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What are your favourite independent businesses (cafes, shops, bars etc) in Brighton?

In our neighbourhood my two favourites are The Beer Dispensary and Florian the Florist. The Beer Dispensary is a great unassuming pub with ales in the hundreds it seems and amazing bar food. Their beerkins and oxtail nuggets are a hard to resist treat. Also near us is Florian The Florist, it’s a gorgeous florist, that also sells vintage furniture from time to time.

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How has Brighton’s shopping scene changed in the last few years?

There’s been a real turnaround recently; lots of spaces that had been empty for a long time are filling up with new businesses, most of them independent. A new generation of shops, galleries workshops and cafes are opening up, it’s great to see.

How do you see the independent community changing here?

It’s always changing, always moving, there are new people always arriving with new ideas. It’s special that way. It’s hard to predict where it’ll go next but you know it’s going to be interesting.

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Discover Dowse on Trouva.

England At Home

England At Home has been an essential part of the fabric of Brighton’s independent community for over 23 years. Founded by husband and wife, Bob and Therese England, their collection spans two shops (across the road from each other) both of which are overflowing with bright, daring designs. Therese’s experience as a buyer for an Australian retail company and her passion for design has helped shape the shop’s unique product offering which is to thank for the boutique’s enduring popularity.

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Tell us about the background of your boutique and why you opened it.

It was hard to slot back into the corporate world after our travels so we both fancied the idea of doing our own thing and chose to set up in Brighton. With my retail experience and Bob’s background in business it seemed an obvious choice to open a shop. I have always enjoyed an eclectic style and get excited about fresh directions in product design, so our product mix is forever evolving and always current.

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Who inspires you?

Anyone creative inspires me. I am also inspired by my husband, Bob, who has to deal with the more hum drum, but vitally important business admin, which frees me to dream up new ways to keep our customers excited and interested.

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What do you predict for the future of retail?

A lot more creativity required by retailers to make it seamless to shop between offline and online.

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What is the best thing about your boutique?

One of our strengths is that we strive to provide an ever-changing eclectic mix of the latest gifts and homewares. Equal to this would be the sense of humour that is present in a lot of our products. There is nothing more pleasing than to hear our customers laughing in store.Equal to this would be the sense of humour that is present in a lot of our products. There is nothing more pleasing than to hear our customers laughing in store.

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Why Brighton? What do you love about it?

We chose to set up shop in Brighton because it has a vibrant, cosmopolitan community that we wished to cater for and be a part of. It also enjoys close proximity to London and many day trippers that add to the colour of the town.

What are your favourite independent businesses (cafes, shops, bars etc) in Brighton?

Go Botanica, Resident Music, Taj the Grocer, Cafe Plenty, Sixty Seven, Gresham Blake, just to name a few.

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Discover England At Home on Trouva.

Discover and shop the best independent boutiques that Brighton has to offer.

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