Opening a physical shop to accompany an online offering might appear counterintuitive and, just three years after graduating, it wasn’t in designer Sara Spence’s game plan.
Spence’s dubbleyou.com.au has been running since her final year in graphic and object design at Sydney’s College of Fine Arts (COFA), selling her locally made homewares and accessories. But after leaving her hometown of Whanganui and moving to Newcastle via Sydney, she was offered another option.
Renew Newcastle is behind much of the Australian city’s evolution from moribund former port town to what is deemed a great urban-renewal success story. The organisation asks Newcastle’s commercial landlords to donate empty spaces to aspiring designers, artists, film-makers or anyone who “makes what they do”. The city centre has benefited from the influx of creative people, to the extent that its ongoing urban plan is based on a similar model of small shops, light rail and the protection of its extraordinary historic buildings.
Spence teamed with artist Sue Dawes on the application and was not assigned the 22-square-metre shop she expected, but a 102-square-metre space that they needed to renovate in three weeks. “My Dad came over to help us transform the space,” says Spence.
Another small-town advantage: The “concrete guy” who’d quoted a few thousand for his services offered to do the work pro bono if they’d provide the materials. In return, Spence is building him a website and brand.
Dubbleyou has bed linen, tea towels, clocks and a range of leather goods. Spence makes each prototype by hand, then takes them to a small, local team to produce. She offers other designers a lower commission rate for the store, so it’s affordable for both while they build their relationship. “If you love something and want to make it, you can,” Spence says, “but you have to think about a clever way of doing that.” –Sam Eichblatt
Shop 18/19, Market Square, Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW