The fact that I’m writing this blog post over a month after taking over the lease on our new shop at 7 Portobello Green, 281 Portobello Road, London is proof of just how hectic life has been in Sapelleland. As I write this post, the aromas and sounds of Notting Hill are drifting into the shop, and the sights of the world-renowned Portobello Market are just a few metres away – Sapelle fits right in.
My objective was to move Sapelle into our new shop before the Summer. As fate would have it, June 3rd was the day we were to move in, 3 years almost to the day since I ‘soft launched’ the Sapelle.com online shop as one of a handful of retailers bringing contemporary African fashion products to a global marketplace.
I was still employed then (as opposed to being self-employed). I wanted to make sure that the concept would work and I perhaps naively assumed that I could grow Sapelle as a part-time venture for the forseeable future. Little did I know how fully and passionately I would be involved with Sapelle and its underlying objectives within such a short time.
The day we moved in was a sweltering hot Wednesday afternoon. We had packed a van with the shop fittings; me swearing as we headed to meet our landlord that we were moving in that day, come hell or high water (we’d had an extended conveyancing process with milestone dates being pushed back several times over many weeks). Once I got hold of the keys, we offloaded the van and set about meeting the crazy target of completing the fit-out and being ready to trade in 3 days.
Here’s where I stop and wholeheartedly salute my team: Lauren, Regina and Nthanda. Hardworking, dedicated, ride-or-die chicks who banged, drilled, fitted, sweated, puffed and panted until we had the semblance of a shop on Saturday 6th June. A new adventure, a challenge to establish Sapelle’s bricks-and-mortar channel, had commenced.
We’re in great company at our new home, Portobello Green, a purpose-built arcade with some great independent labels: Unora the luxe Italian brand, Danaqa, a luxury lifestyle brand that features lifestyle items from around the world, including Africa, vintage lingerie brand What Katie Did, fantastic visual art and gift shop Angel in the Attic, the hip brand Trapstar and lots more. They form a community of unique brands that have carved out their place in a market full of homogeneity.
The beauty of a physical presence is meeting your customers face-to-face, receiving feedback and getting an insight into what ticks their boxes. And thankfullly it’s been overwhelmingly positive! After a period of looking back and then inwards and then forward, defining who we are and what space we occupy in the market (i.e. that of an ethical retailer of everyday African-inspired fashion for work and weekend), it’s hugely gratifying to see people responding well to it. Now comes the challenge of getting people to know we’re here.
To that end, there’s lots in the pipeline, including a launch party in September. In the meantime, here are a few shots of the shop.