Following the lead of other designer collaborations, Jessica Harwood of Take Care and Keith Henning of Adriaan Kuiters have opened a shop – 73 on Kloof – together. Here they discuss their combined approach and why they work so well together.
The leap from expanding your design business into opening a shop and entering the retail space can be daunting. In the last six months of 2011, eight new stores were opened by local design entrepreneurs.
Most agree that it’s a necessary step, and designers such as Marian Park-Ross and Kirsty Bannerman of Mungo & Jemima have made it work by collaborating their businesses.
Jessica Harwood of Take Care and Keith Henning of Adriaan Kuiters have had a collaborated approach to their businesses since they started sharing studio space when Keith moved from Durban to Cape Town. According to them, they started working closely together from the start, using the same resources and even sharing seamstresses.
"We share the same outlook and eye for detail," says Jessica, days before the big open. "A minimal and a clean look, but I think this existed before we started working in the same space, without knowing it we’ve influenced each other."
Keith adds their similar approach has helped in preparing the store space. "We trust each other’s design aesthetics – with the shop space I could completely hand over to Jess [who prior to launching her clothing label was an interior designer]."
The decision to open a store was something they’d considered for a while. "I had to take that next step," says Keith. "I felt like I had to take it to the next level and if I didn’t I could then reassess but I wouldn’t know unless I tried.
"We spoke about opening a shop for some time and for a while we were going to open a shop with [local design brand] Christopher Strong but then they found their space so we put the shop idea on hold. We were a bit concerned about opening a shop together [Adriaan Kuiters and Take Care] and having to intertwine our businesses and then have to make business decisions together.
"So we were looking for a shop space with two doors," he explains."As you will see the shop has two doors for either brand and two till points so we do not have to intertwine the businesses financially and we’ve managed to keep them separate," The separation offers a fun ‘his and hers’ aesthetic and as Jessica points out, "Our ranges speak to different people, yet they complement each other."
However their collaboration is not limited to each other. The store also stocks Persol sunglasses (on Keith’s side) and a small collection of Amanda Laird Cherry shoes and Skermunkil jewellery (on Jessica’s side). "We’re quite focused on what we stock and our design aesthetic," the Take Care designer explains. "We’re looking for stuff that you can’t get anywhere else and what we stock is very well thought out. For example we’re stocking a brand Hannah which I think complements Take Care. She’s quite new and we’re the only shop where the brand is available."
Considering that both brands are stocked in a few stores, Keith and Jessica would like to use the shop as a space to experiment. "The collection in store is quite basic but I’m considering expanding into luggage and possibly furniture and ceramics," says the menswear designer with a near-cult design-conscious following who appreciate his casual, yet carefully constructed - considered -silhouettes.
"We don’t consider ourselves just clothing designers, we’re designers. This approach has allowed us to dive in and will let us expand our collections. We’re looking at doing capsule collections that you can only get here. I’m working on a leather range now,’ Jessica adds, saying they’ve both been overwhelmed at how well people have supported the shop. "When we opened in December most of our clients were tourists, but now more and more local people are starting to come in and we’re enjoying the feedback, which confirms that we chose the right spot."
Adriaan Kuiters is available from the Neighbourgoods markets in Cape Town and Johannesburg; A Store and the online store, Spence.
Stores in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Namibia stock Take Care and Jessica is collaborating on a collection with Marietjie Beeslaar of Skermunkil for the Design Indaba.