Making Bonds

One of the many perks of working at Trouva is not only the bonds we make with our community of skilled shopkeepers, but access to the many creative and unique workshops, events and initiatives that our boutiques regularly host in store.

The Trouva team was lucky enough to be invited to experience a candle-making workshop hosted by Niko Dafkos and Paul Firmin, the duo behind fragrance brand Earl of East and proprietors of new concept store, Bonds Hackney.

Before the crafting began, we took a tour of the beautiful Bonds space including the working studios of ceramic brand Kana London and Earl of East London. We settled on Bonds’ rooftop and as we drunk our glasses of raspberry vinegar infused prosecco complete with rose petals, we talked to Niko and Paul about their journey so far and their vision for Bonds.

Trouva team on the rooftop terrace at Bonds Hackney
Team Trouva enjoying drinks on the Bonds Hackney rooftop terrace

We are a couple who started the business as a creative outlet in 2014. We both still work full-time in advertising, so this really is a passion of ours as it takes over every spare moment. We’ve learnt that it’s not about work-life balance but integration. We’ve got a really strong connection to Hackney where Bonds is based; it’s where we met, first lived together and started the business. We wanted to open our first bricks-and-mortar space here in London Fields as it’s where our story began.

As the business has grown we’ve loved being able to bring in other people. At first having day jobs alongside this business was a necessity, now it’s a choice – we both still enjoy working in our advertising roles. We have a lovely team who are invested in making Earl of East and Bonds grow. All of our team have other projects too, it means they all have unique perspectives on where we should go next and that is really exciting.

Niko and Paul pouring drinks
The owners Paul and Niko making raspberry vinegar infused prosecco

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

The concept behind Bonds is to create a multi-functional space that is an extension to, and home of Earl of East London. As a store we are focused on stocking independent and local brands that we have a personal connection with, the space can also play host to those brands to hold showcases, launches and workshops. The products in the store come alive when you know the work that goes in to them and the people behind the brand.

We’ve hosted a number of private classes already as we can cater to a range of group sizes and offer a beautiful setting in the middle of Hackney.

Bonds is also a neighbourhood coffee spot, and as we are off the beaten track we are hoping to become a destination for locals in search of their caffeine fix. The building is so beautiful and we really wanted to share that with others.

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The shelves at Bonds stocked with design-led goods

Who inspires you?

We are inspired by travel more than people, specifically visiting shops around the world. The people behind those businesses who love what they do and believe in their craft are inspirational.

We often look outside of retail, seeing the likes of Bao and Breddo’s Tacos (both of which also started in Netil Market) and how they’ve grown from a market stall to an established company.

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Paul preparing the space for the candle-making workshop

What do you predict for the future of retail?

The future of retail is very complicated. We don’t believe the high street is dead, in fact quite the opposite, it’s just rapidly changing. The future is about delivering a high-quality experience as well as beautifully displayed products. Shops need to have a narrative that weaves through everything they do, to create a loyal following and build a community of loyal customers who become ambassadors for your brand. Shops should be destinations for their consumer with many different elements that complement each other or add a sense of theatre to the products they sell.

For shops to survive they need to be multi-channel, ensuring they are present wherever their consumers are, whether that is within social platforms, online marketplaces or destination websites.

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An Earl of East London ‘Elementary’ candle

What is the best thing about Bonds and Earl of East?

Bonds and Earl of East is the culmination of the last 3 years work. We’ve turned a creative outlet or hobby in to a business and it’s still so much fun. What excites us most is where it will take us next. This newest project has created the perfect home for our growing Earl of East studio and allowed us to delve deeper into retail. We love the fact that the new space is multifunctional and that we can showcase and support other brands and craftspeople, whilst allowing us to build the Earl of East brand. Now customers can see our studio in action and we have a beautiful home for our workshops and private events.

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Experimenting with scents during the workshop

Tell us about the workshops you host and run at Bonds.

Bonds is the home of our fragrance brand Earl of East London and ceramic brand Kana London. We both hold a series of workshops showcasing our own craft, we’re planning a series of collaborative classes too. In addition to the weekly candle-making and clay workshops we also host offsite group sessions.

We’ve only been open for 8 weeks but already we’ve hosted a weekend of macrame classes with Emily Katz, founder of Modern Macrame and a touch and try sale from linen brand, Bug Clothing. We hope to become known as a workshop venue and that we can play host to many of the brands we stock in store.

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Candle pouring in process

Why do you run workshops at Bonds?

We wanted to showcase our fragrance and candle craft and Bonds allows us to do this with other craftspeople too. In our weekly candle making workshops we have been lucky enough to meet many people at the beginning of a creative exploration, we aim to inspire these people to create. It’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.

Team Trouva enjoying the candle making process
The team enjoying the candle making process
Ruby Hall

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