“A buyer would tell me they want ‘abc’…but there was no understanding of what happens on the other end of the chain, the origin,” The Storer’s Lisa Storer tells me over the din of Sanlam’s Handmade Contemporary Fair as we perch on a wooden bench. “I became discontent going into malls and seeing how consumers are dictated to around the things they have to have; there was a soullessness when I stood in my factory as well as in the retail stores.”
Having serviced the retail industry for around 15 years under her brand Maks and Blaze, Lisa’s work involved trend forecasting and sourcing and supplying fashion accessories for heavyweight retailers. But eventually, the hollowness of mall stores and their valueless offering made her stop, step back and walk the other away. “When I grew up we had small scale stores, with all sorts of amazing goods and friendly staff that made you feel like part of a community,” she reminisces, that sense of longing for soulfulness and human interaction telling of how she came to be where she is today.
And so it was that two years ago she began on a quest to find more meaning in the things we surround ourselves with, journeying to villages, studios, communities and families between Africa, Asia and South America. There she truly connected with little known makers, she learned about their craft and traditions and rekindled a sense of authenticity that has long been absent in retail. “The traditional way of doing business is having and sticking to a plan, but we just go and we see what comes of our search, we go to markets, we talk to people and find new connections. We have to be very flexible and open,” she explains.
The result is a collection of globally sourced, sensitively made, soulful fair trade product ranging from fashion and accessories, to body products and homeware all available through her brand The Storer. Rugs made by the Berber women of the Atlas mountains, some more than 50 years old and found in monthly markets; 99% homemade organic body products made by a woman in Portland, Oregon who was retrenched from her corporate gig. “When it comes to product made with love, you can feel the grain of the wood, the weave of the rugs, there’s a complexity to it that lacks in big retail,” she says.
A browse through her online store reveals Tamegroute pottery, brass trays and bowls, palm straw poufs, repurposed kilim clutch bags, tooled leather handbags, silk cushions and a treasure trove of other unique goods. “An object isn’t something that’s trending, to be discarded 2 or 6 months later; it’s something you have to contemplate, mull over, ask how it fits into your life,” she concludes.
While selling online is a tool she believes is powerful and right for the times, Lisa missed the very same element that she sought to seek in the first place…the human connection. Thus, her first store opened its doors on Thursday 2 November.
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