Shannon Fricke is a Renaissance woman who seemingly glides through life being good at everything she turns her mind to. We despise her. (Of course we don’t, we love her). We’ve been friends for over 20 years and have danced around each other creatively and consciously for a very long time… and we pretty much haven’t stopped talking in all of those years. Gather round and hear her muse on how her creative process is considered and planned and the key to her success… and how each of her projects is deeply aligned to who she truly is. For her, it’s the gravitas behind the gliding. Word!
Alexandra: Hey… It must be 25 years since we did the Cleo Beauty Book together… (Shannon used to be the Deputy Editor of Cleo Magazine and I was the Book Publisher at ACP)…
Do you remember when we had coffee at Jeds in Bondi and we spoke of the concept of Escape and how we could relate that to GINGER & SMART?
Shannon: I was thinking about that yesterday!
Alexandra: It’s got to be 17 or 18 years ago.
Shannon: Wow, no way!
Alexandra: Because GINGER & SMART is 17 years old in April, we launched in 2002.
Shannon: Yes… we were brainstorming. I remember.
Alexandra: We were talking about how to create a more of a meaningful frame around GINGER & SMART – and we talked about escaping through scents, escaping through accessories, travel, and taking yourself somewhere else with our collection.
Shannon: It’s funny because when I reflect back on the word ‘escape’ now - escape and freedom has also been the undercurrent of everything that I’ve done. And interestingly, the theme of escape and freedom coincided with the birth of my children. I think when you feel that you don’t have the ability to be able to escape at a whim, all of a sudden, escaping and a sense of freedom becomes very important to you. Freedom is the basis for all of the work that I have done since then. The sense of inner freedom.
Alexandra: When do you think you started to think about, and formulate, your creative path? Where did that start? At what moment do you think you became conscious of that journey?
Shannon: I was 12, I remember really distinctly, the day that I discovered magazines. I’m an only child, (with a) single mum, so for me discovering magazines completely changed my life because it opened me up to a world and possibilities that I just didn’t have any access to before. I resonated with many international magazines and I would spend literally every waking moment collecting and reading them. I developed such a deep passion for the medium that it consumed my every waking hour. After school I would go to the newsagent and scour every local and international magazine. I studied every photographer, every model, every fashion editor, every aspect of the medium. It was all that we had back then – in 1980… 1981 other than TV… we just didn’t have many other outlets to turn to. So really I was 12 when I realised that there was a world outside of my own world and I desperately wanted access to it.
Alexandra: What caught your eye about that world – was it the images?
Shannon: The hook was the fashion and the images. My first love was fashion – funnily, I’m not as drawn to it now but as a young girl I expressed myself through fashion from a very young age. My mother was passionate about fashion, my grandmother was a dress maker… so fashion is very much part of my family lineage. I used fashion as a way to express myself and I had quite a quirky sense from a young age. We didn’t have a lot of money so I had to be creative. Really the seeds of my creativity, and then this desperation to live a different life to the life I had been living, sparked my future creative endeavours. From there I became completely obsessed. I would study it like a university degree and then work out ways that I could jump on that ride.
(Image by Carla Coulson)
Alexandra: Which led you to modelling?
Shannon: I started modelling at 14. I went out and got an agent and I was with Camerons – a great agency. But modelling didn’t really suit me; I didn’t like not being the one in control so I only lasted for a few years. But the experience taught me a lot. At the same time; when work experience came up at school; I decided that I wanted to work on a magazine and I was lucky enough to somehow get through to Deborah Bibby – who was the fashion editor at the time of Cleo Magazine. I was 15 and I reckon she was 22, and she answered the phone and I said – ‘Hi, can I do work experience’…. And she was like ‘Fantastic…come in… wonderful, yes do it with me’. From that point on my whole life just changed. I worked in the fashion department with her – it was just her and so I became her assistant. I knew that I wanted to work in magazines and this was my break. I have always had a very strong work ethic, but I worked my guts out.
That’s where I met Marina Go. Marina gave me my first job. I became the Beauty Editor at Dolly Magazine and literally I remember saying to myself – ‘I can die now; I have achieved everything I ever wanted!’.
I remember sitting in my lounge room and thinking, ‘That’s it, you’ve achieved everything you want to achieve and this is your dream’. This was a very exciting time in my life and I didn’t want anything else. It was amazing.
Alexandra: It must have been such a grounding in creativity but also in commerciality. Because that’s what magazines are…
Shannon: That was the hardest lesson I think for me. Is that blending of being creative and having to sell your creativity – that’s the reality.
Alexandra: So what was creativity to you back then? And what is it to you now?
Shannon: Creativity for me then was more about replication than anything else. Whilst I think I had my own point of view - style and perspective - what I was trying to do was replicate this feeling I had when I looked at other magazines. Whilst it was creative it was also about replication…
Creativity now is more about expressing a truer sense of self. Now I’m just looking to bring something forward from within me, really deep within me and that is a journey too. I think as you grow in confidence and you know yourself more, you are happier to bring forth your truth. I think now, I don’t even think about creativity being separate from who I am. We are creating in every moment, its just part of my being.
Alexandra: When are you creative? How is creativity a part of your life in reality?
Shannon: I am creative all the time, but having said that, it doesn’t always come forth in an obvious way. But I am creating all the time. The hardest part is formalising the creativity and shaping it into something. It can come through in random waves for me. I need to block myself off from distraction. Often it comes to me when I am driving in the car and am in a bit of a bubble or a vacuum and the truest thought comes through then.
It is a fireworks of ideas at that point. It’s not until I sit down and actually start forming it into something that it becomes something that I can share with the world. Then I have to sit down and create a very strong framework around my environment to drive the idea out of me.
But I am in the process of creation all the time and I am very conscious of it. Pure creativity is just around me and is a thing that comes through me all the time…
Alexandra: Most people I think are creative, whether they know that they are or not. It’s whether they can manifest that creativity into something that they themselves, or other people, can resonate with, enjoy, participate in. That’s the difference between having an idea - ideas are free - and making that idea a reality.
Can you give an example of something that you have thought of, perhaps while you have been driving… a book, a story, a shoot, a product… and that process you have gone through…
(Picture by Jessie Prince)
Shannon: Well, of course it begins with the idea. But I’m not happy to action an idea unless that idea has come from a deep part of myself - so I go through a kind of distillation process to ensure the idea is my deepest truth.
Once I have decided that the idea is truthful and has merit, then, I build a framework around the process. And I have to have a very rigid framework. So, for example, if I am writing a book I have to have a deadline, whether it’s real or self imposed. From that place I work backwards and I break up my days. I break up how many words I have to write … And then within that I try not to be too hard on myself. But without a process or a deadline or a framework … or a schedule, nothing really ever happens. I like to have a green light for a project, so if it’s a book for example – I like to have a book deal. Then I have the pressure that I need. I work well under pressure, I need some pressure... not too much, but some… to push the ideas out the door.
I break up my days, and my life, and my hours and my minutes into microscopic bits, down to the seconds almost. And I say, ‘Okay, you’ve got 40,000 words you’ve got to write, that means that you have 3 months and you have to write 1,000 words a day and write between the hours of 9 and 12am. And I’m going to sit and I am going to do it until it happens’.
I find I actually produce very good work under those conditions. I’m distilling my work as I go – I will always go back to the work, obviously, but I am editing as I go.
Alexandra: Are you a control freak, in so much as, it has to be perfect before you present it?
Shannon: No, because you can always improve the work. I believe that you should just get something out the door and then you can mould it once it is set free. Then it becomes something else and other people are involved and then you are sharing it – and that’s good too.
I’m not that protective of my work. I like having other people around me helping me to shape it; I think the work becomes better that way.
Alexandra: I think it’s a curation thing. That’s what I really got from being an editor, is that idea of curating – you have an idea and then you bring in the thoughts of others and then at the end the product is still your work, but it’s finessed.
Shannon: I think so, because I can’t do everything. When it comes to writing a book, I see my primary role as the deliverer of the message. I don’t like my work to be edited to the point where it changes the nature of the work (and that comes down to choosing and working with very good editors who are gentle and respectful). I would be very upset if the nature of my tone shifted, but I’m fine with cutting some paragraphs. I have only ever worked with editors that are faithful to my work. But the flipside is that I love working with people because they can bring a finesse. I am not an editor, I am writer, so I rely on them to ensure that I am not writing to myself and that I am writing in a way that people can understand what I am trying saying.
Alexandra: You’re really a Renaissance woman because you’re a writer and a designer, and an interiors guru and a television presenter and you create your own brand/product. You run an amazing property, and retail business and do presenting… I ran out of fingers there… have I missed anything?
Shannon: I don’t know if that’s what I am. What I really am is someone who doesn’t like to be defined by one thing. I’ve never really understood why you can’t do whatever you want. It doesn’t make any sense to me. If someone says, “You’re a designer, you can’t be a singer”. I think ‘Why not?’ Why can’t you be whatever you want.
Alexandra: Well, you can do whatever you want to, but it is different being good at everything you want to do. You could go and sing in a bar and you’d probably be the top bill, but not everyone can do that. It seems to me that you can move from one vocation, or from one genre to another seamlessly, and excel in every single one of them.
Shannon: Really, though, they are all underpinned by the same thing. So it’s not like I’m moving genres so vastly. It’s not that I am moving in completely different worlds. Everything I do is underpinned by trying to find the essence of self by using different mediums, whether it’s home or fashion or beauty.
It’s about trying to tap into or inspire or bring awareness to this sense of self and how we can use our creativity to express our authentic self. And I just use the mediums that I have around me, that I enjoy, and they are always related to home in some way.
There have been times in my life when I have been very individual and have been running my own show. But the last few years I have been wanting to explore the concept of the collective, what it means to be part of a bigger organism and how that can play out in the retail environment, for example.
So Newrybar Merchants was really an exercise in exploring the concept of togetherness. (Shannon is co-owner Newrybar Merchants, a collective of merchants (www.newrybarmerchants.com.au). These are just concepts that I want to explore in my own personal life, and then I find a medium that I can use to explore it in my working life. The retail environment was less about the creation of a store, rather, the store was the medium to explore the concept of the collective. I like shifting and so I find a medium to suit my exploration.
(Picture by Prue Ruscoe for Home Beautiful)
Alexandra: You have cleverly, and with a sense of longevity, built this brand and community around Shannon Fricke. I remember around 2008 when this whole online blog phenomenon started and you were streets ahead of anyone I knew at the time, communicating with your community.
Shannon: That was a reaction to my move to the country. Taking myself out of that urban environment and putting myself in a very isolated environment. And Byron Bay 13 years ago was much more isolated than it is now. I had a deep desire to maintain connection and I came across the blog as a concept. There were other blogs at that point but it was very much the beginning of the wave. I decided that it was a really good medium to maintain my connection whilst being isolated. And also it was a good way to market my message, to get work to come to me. What really happened when I moved to Byron – is that people thought that I had dropped out; become a stoner hippie and wasn’t going to work.
Actually, I wanted to work more than ever.
But I wanted to have an environment that was on my own terms. I didn’t really know what the blog was at first, but I had a desire to connect. And then from there, once it built momentum and a following, I could see there was an opportunity for me to build business around that and to bring people to me.
Bed linen came from that blog. I had decided I wanted to turn Shannon Fricke into a brand. I wanted to explore the idea of brand, but I had never attempted retail, I had never tackled product development. I didn’t know what it was. I had been around people like you, who I was in awe of, and I loved what you were doing and I thought, ‘That would be a fun thing to do’. But I didn’t know how to do it. And I knew that I just had to maintain connection.
I sat down and decided that I was going to build this brand and that I wanted to start with bed linen. Within two months I got a phone call from a company saying that they read my blog, loved the essence of my message – and was I interested in creating a range of bed linen?’.
Alexandra: Do you always have to get what you ask for? Oh wait. Yes!
Shannon: And so the blog was the spring board for that, as well as my workshops. I started this concept of sharing because I am a big believer in sharing the knowledge. If you are lucky enough to learn something, then I believe in sharing it… particularly with women. I could see that a lot of women were wanting to change careers or become a creative and didn’t know how to do it. And so the workshops became another vehicle for me to share that creativity and knowledge. So getting back to your original point, I do wear a lot of hats.
Alexandra: One of the things that has always made me think you have super powers – is how it is that you think, ‘I think I might want to be a presenter on television’, or ‘I think I might want to do some product design or be the editor of Dolly’… and bang it happens. Do you have guardian angels sitting behind each shoulder or what? And how have you always taken your creative idea and made that happen?
Shannon: From the time I was a little girl. If I wanted something and I was clear about my intention for that thing – it always came to me, always. For many years people would say – ‘oh you’re so lucky’ or ‘everything happens for you, you’re so lucky’. And I used to think I was just one of those lucky kids. But really, when I started to look at my life there was no obvious reason why I was lucky over everyone else. I grew up in a housing commission flat, we were not wealthy. I didn’t always have the greatest of experiences in my family life. So, I was certainly not a kid that came from good fortune. But I had this ability to be able to turn what I wanted into something real. And what I realised once I started to research it, is I had, and I still have – sometimes to my detriment – this unerring self belief. I have a belief that if I want something I should have it and it will come to me. I think that it is partly because I am an only child. I decide I want something and I study it, and if there is no distraction… I take to it … I was bought up believing that I could have what I want, there was never any blocks or barriers in the way.
(Image by Carla Coulson)
Alexandra: Remind me. What did your mum used to say to you?
Shannon: If I had said to my mother, ‘Mum, I have decided I want to spend my whole life hanging upside down in a tree like a monkey – and that would be really great life for me,’. My mother would say, ‘Darling, that’s wonderful! What are we going to do to make that happen?’ And then she would tell my auntie and they would ask, ‘How are we going to do that?’. There was never any judgement around this positivity so I never really had an understanding or a feeling that there was a boundary or a barrier… until I grew up and was exposed to a world outside of my family. And then it became very obvious that people thought I was gullible or crazy for wanting to hang upside down in a tree.
Alexandra: Can I refer you back to something you said to me the other day… it was something she said to you… she used to test you by saying, What do you think? What do YOU think in this moment?/
Shannon: Well, we know life is tough sometimes and it presents you with situations that you question and my mother would say, ‘What do you believe? What do you think is real for you? Just because someone else is saying something to you doesn’t mean that it is your reality. If you believe that you can do something or can have something then that’s what really matters’.
And so I grew up with the understanding that if I believed it, then it was real.
Alexandra: What a gift!
Shannon: I realise now, that’s the one and greatest gifts my mother and my family as a whole has given me. They created an environment where we, as a group of kids, believed that we have access to everything and we can do anything and we had a real sense of pride in that. There have been times in my life where I have second guessed myself. But, mostly, I have always believed. And this is how things have happened for me. So there is a real process that you go through to make things happen and I understand what that is now. You manifest, when you believe something, when you drive it, but you let it go and you trust and you know deep down that it is going to happen for you. Then things do happen for you… it might not happen in the form that you are asking… but the essence of what you are asking for comes back to you. That’s the process I have always drawn upon.
Alexandra: Which is a creative process in and of its self…
Shannon: It is the creative process… the creative process is exactly this!!!
Alexandra: Can we dive into that for a minute. Because many more people now are tapping into this more conscious world… and have an understanding that you have desire, you put it out there, you manifest it, you let it go and it becomes. But how does that actually work for you? Because we can all write down a desire like, ‘I want to write a book’, but there is a big difference between that and it actually happening
Shannon: So what I do, and what I have always done is ensure that the desire is in complete alignment with the deepest, truest part of myself, the highest part of myself. Even as a child if I wanted something, I would have a physical reaction to the thought and I would always respect that physical reaction. So I might have decided that I wanted to be the Prime Minister of Australia - and in my mind this would be a completely real desire and possible - but physically my body was reacting and it was reacting in different ways. I’d develop a pain or I’d get a headache. And even though my mind thought that I wanted this thing, the soulful part of myself was rejecting it. The key was always insuring what I was desiring was always in line with my soul self, and so I would find out whether it was in alignment through a series of processes.
Firstly, I’d meditate, even as a kid. I would put myself into this truthful state and I would say, ‘Be honest with yourself, is this really who you are? Is this really want you want?’. And it’s only really when your desire comes from that deep, honest, aligned part of yourself that it manifests into something. I don’t believe that you can say, ‘Oh, I want to be a billionaire’ and it just happens. Unless of course, it’s in complete alignment with the deepest part of yourself. I know I don’t actually want to be a billionaire. It’s not part of who I am. I don’t want it so it would never happen – even if I wrote it down as my intention for 2019 it would never manifest because of that. I always cut to the chase of who I really am and my soulful place in the world and then go, ‘Come on honey, have a good look at who you are, the real person’. And then ask for what is in alignment with the real me. And I have asked for a lot of things. And a lot of things haven’t come. But the things that have come have been in complete alignment with who I am and where I am at and what I want my message to be in the moment. I would love to be different to how I am in so many ways, but at some point you just have to accept. This is who I am, this is my message, and come from that place.
When you do come from this place, then things come to you. And if you don’t you can keep banging your head against a wall and you can absolutely make things happen, to a point, but it is not easy. I might not be as beautiful or as stylish or as wealthy as I imagined I might be, but I am in complete alignment with the true me and that’s more important to me than anything.
(Picture by Prue Ruscoe for Home Beautiful)
Alexandra: Can you talk a little bit about where you are headed?
Shannon: These days, I’m heading in a very different direction with my life and my work. Different and the same at the same time, I guess. I have had experiences that have come to me that have connected me with the field of energy medicine and shamanism. My life has definitely shifted. I’m turning 50 this year, my kids have just left home, I’m divorced – and I’m ready to tackle a whole new part of myself. And so I have been studying this field of energy medicine for the past five years; understanding aura, understanding how energy affects wellbeing and affects your ability to be in alignment. The core of my work is about alignment which really springboards from this concept of, ‘How on earth can you manifest all this stuff you want?’.
This next leg of my journey is about exploring the esoteric world. The invisible world. And playing around with unusual concepts in the unseen realm. Energy medicine is part of that - it is a big concept and it encompasses a lot of things. Essentially it works on the understanding that we as humans are just manifested energy. We’re vibrating at a slower pace of invisible energy but the invisible energy is affecting our manifest body and our health and general wellbeing. And so I am doing a lot of research and studying the invisible. Interestingly, I have been surrounded by the invisible my whole life. I look around my house and I have paintings of ghosts and spirits and all of this realm stuff. It’s been in my field of interest for a long time. But subconsciously.
Alexandra: How does that manifest, creatively, in the next five years, for you?
Shannon: I’m not sure about that yet. I am still in the process of discovering the concept and the subject matter myself. When you are dealing with something invisible, it is a different space because it is not tangible. So learning a language, understanding what it means, learning from the masters or people who really know what they are talking about – that’s the space that I am in right now. And how that manifests is up for grabs at this point. But I think probably it is a sharing of the knowledge. I feel like what happens as I get older is I have less desire to create from a place of receiving egoic based success. My desire is to create as a way of sharing what I have learnt. It is less about what I can gather or own or get accolades for, and it is more about understanding concepts and working out tangible ways to share this with other people. We will just see what happens, but I would say a book is in the making. Because the written word is always so exciting for me; it is my medium. People say to me, ‘Who are you? What do you do? Because you do so many things…’ and I say to them ‘I am a writer’.
Alexandra: You said that before, I think it’s interesting that you distil all of your talents and interests and complexities and insights… down to this… Why is that do you think?
Shannon: Because this is the place where my truest, most honest channelling of information comes from; via the written word. The Word is everything to me and it has always been my most honest and passionate medium. People say to me, ‘What do you mean you’re a writer?’ and I say, ‘Well that’s actually who I am as a person… if I was to define myself’. And so I really want to get back into more writing and more sharing of some of these things that I am learning about.
Alexandra: But everything that you do, whether it is product design or presenting, it is all sharing, about the message, to your community…
Shannon: It is, it is and it is for all of us… it is for you too – what you’re doing – you are conceptualising and then you are sharing that concept through your design, through fashion. I mean essentially every collection you do is named and it is named, from where I see it, to encapsulate a moment or a feeling or a way of being. So yes, we are using different mediums all the time to express that. But the word is my most favoured medium… I love it!
Alexandra: I love that… ‘the word is my most favoured medium’ … It is because it can send you in so many different directions and you’re good at it.
Shannon: When I am in the flow, I just love it. The word comes out of me with total passion, and ease, and love. Designing product can sometimes be more of a headspace process whereas the word is easy. I remember hearing an Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk and she talked about a poet who was describing the process of writing and she said, “The word doesn’t come from mind, what happens is the word comes past me on the wind and my job is to be conscious that it is there and then to capture and pull it down onto the page’. To be able to do this you have to be in a place where the word comes through you and then you capture it and you hold it down. I find this process happens to me more with the word more than any other design medium.
Alexandra: So, that TED talk was one of the synthesising parts of this whole Creative Musings project. She was talking about how she creates and her process, but also the spiritual side of how she finds her medium. When I heard her talk I finally figured out how I wanted this project to roll. That it is the creative process and ability to manifest and then actualise a creative endeavour that I find fascinating.
Shannon: It is a divine process and what I find about The Word is that it’s unencumbered – unless you’ve got a book deal and you have to write something for the market. But really the word is unencumbered by business. With fashion or a range of bed linen, at the end of the day, it has to be placed somewhere, and you are thinking about a customer, you have to sell it, all of that commercial side of things. Whereas I don’t have to share the word with anyone unless I choose to. It just comes through me and if I’m in my most divine state of being then it is my purest thought and it is such a beautiful thing.
Alexandra: That there is creativity… whether you are a painter or a writer or a musician, it’s that thing that drops in at that moment, in time that creates the path.
Shannon: And I think that is key, I think that what happens when you grow up is that your mind gets in the way of what is essentially a divine and an intuitive process. As a child you tend to react more authentically. What I believe is that when something presents itself to you like that, when you are drawn to something, if you have an awareness that you are being drawn to it, then you must respect this and focus on it in some way or give it prudence to some degree before you get involved. You can’t stay in the, ‘Oh I can’t do that because of this’ or ‘it is too expensive’ mindset. You have to push all of that to the side and you say, ‘This has come through me and now I must respect it for what it is’. And that is really why I think I do all of the things that I do – because something will come to me or through me and then I will explore it, even though it makes absolutely no sense at the time. I mean I do a lot of stuff that makes no sense, a lot of the time. At that moment in time something has come through me – I am propelled to act or move in a certain direction and I move in that direction because something bigger than me is pushing me that way and I end up going down all of these amazing path ways because I respect the phenomenon for what it is. What happens when you become an adult is you put thought in the middle and you end up not following that path. I don’t know if it is because I am a bit OCD or ADD, or whatever, but I just trust when something presents itself to me, I will say it or I will do it. Sometimes it makes absolutely no sense and it seems to be stupid to the outside world, and everyone is looking at me like I’m a little nuts, but in my gut I know I am being pulled down a pathway and I follow that pathway.
Alexandra: The consequence of some of that is that you are always ahead of the curve…
Shannon: I probably am ahead of the curve and in alignment. hopefully... and if I am not in alignment I pull away and I run a mile.
Alexandra: An example of that is – I remember being at your house in Byron and you were telling me that you wanted to do a sustainability magazine – this is 10 years ago!
Shannon: And I never did it…
Alexandra: You never did it but you fully explored it and delved in…
Shannon: And I did a whole proposal…
When you are in alignment you are picking up on the zeitgeist before the zeitgeist is taking hold. And you can feel it. The ground is rumbling beneath you and you can’t ignore it. I mean this sounds so hippy, but I could feel the earth groaning beneath my feet and I felt that it was really important to share the message of survival, growth and respect for Mother Earth. What stopped me? There was a whole load of things that stopped me from seeing this idea through to fruition. Essentially it was fear. I became very nervous I wasn’t going to be able to be the pillar of sustainability I needed to be, to set myself up as the voice of sustainability. Really I think I probably should have gone for it, in hindsight. It’s such a passion. But, oh well. When you are working in a sensory way and you are trusting your senses you think that everyone is on the same wavelength as you. But often it takes 10 years for the world to catch up. So in this sense, I’m not sure that being ahead of the curve helps other than being aware of it, you know? Sometimes you are too far ahead of the curve and by the time everyone else is on board, you have moved onto the next thing, because really what you are tapping into is the undercurrent or the soul of the world.
Sometimes the world isn’t ready to hear what you have got to say, so you dribble it through in the best way that you can and then one day people start listening to you. There has just been a shift. It’s a bit like the work I do – people say ‘why are you doing bed linen?’. Well, the concept behind bed linen is the understanding or the belief that when you are asleep and you dream you are at your most authentic self. When you sleep you are raising to a higher consciousness and it’s in that state of consciousness that you can see the clearest - when your truth will come to you. It often comes through a dream – and so the bed is the hot bed of your truth. In the dream state, answers to your questions will come. The bed linen springs from the desire to create a beautiful environment to sleep in so that you are better able to fall into that authentic space… and I talk about it a little bit through my branding and a lot of people understand it and a lot of people don’t. I am not a traditional retailer or a product person, but I have chosen the bed and bed linen and the retail environment because it speaks so loudly to everybody. We are all consumers in this day and age and so in this environment you can actually get a message across in a more palatable way.
Alexandra: I think all of that comes through strongly just in the words that you choose, you inspire.
Shannon: I am becoming braver as well because I have been working with these concepts for such a long time now I am coming clean about what my concepts are all about. So I will name a bed linen range ‘Astral’ for example talk about why it is called Astral and what that comes from and what that actually means to me. It might not resonate with everybody but for some people it will. So it is just sharing the knowledge and I do that through product.
Alexandra: I think it is becoming exponentially more important for people to know the meaning behind anything they are spending their hard earned cash on. From the origins of their coffee and bread, to the sustainability of the clothes they buy, and the meaning behind their bed linen.
Shannon: Yes. I think a brand has to have a voice for it to be sustainable and last the ages. You have to be prepared to define yourself by a voice, whatever that voice is. The voice could be a playful voice or a reflective voice or whatever you choose. But at the end of the day the brand has to stand steadfast within this voice. The consumer market is more enquiring and the internet has changed everything – people are more used to looking for answers or looking for knowledge and so I think it is important for a brand to have depth and a point of view and to state what that point of view is. Sometimes this can be to the detriment of sales.
Alexandra: My thinking is that if you are that kind of brand you are in deep trouble in this day and age. It’s the conviction piece – the authentic conviction piece that makes a difference…
Shannon: Yes, there are going to be moments when your brand hits the zeitgeist and there are moments where it doesn’t. But people and brands evolve. A brand is a living organism.
Alexandra: So tell me, how is Newrybar Merchants going…
Shannon: You know, I didn’t want to plough into the retail environment. What I wanted was to be a part of something that was a collective, that didn’t put too much sales pressure on my brand. What came to me was this. The concept of Newrybar Merchants was very organic and came by chance. For me, it was purely creative at first. Then I was asked to come on board as one of the owners and now it’s more of a real business. And it’s very successful. The basis of the space is creating an environment that feels beautiful for people and it attracts amazing retailers and one of a kind artisans and people with a voice and something to say. We sit them side by side and it is a unique organism. Our customers are feeling something they are not experiencing anywhere else. So for me, it was an experiment in the concept of the creation of energy in a retail environment. If you create the right kind of energy people naturally are attracted to wanting a piece of that energy. It feels good to them. And of course you have to have the right product mix – there is a whole science behind it, but at the core of it is that it is a beautiful place to be and people love it and resonate with it. We have created the vibe now and we have got it working as we intended and this is a joy for us. Its been tough too but it has been a joy at its core.
Alexandra: Like anything, whether it be a book or a shop or whatever – the level of intense attention to detail, thinking, mistakes, that underpin what seems like quite an easy concept – is the creativity, the success is in the detail, the hours are in the detail…
Shannon: It comes down to one word - resilience. None of this is easy. It looks easy on the face of it, but none of it is easy and it is a constant management of the microcosm. No one really knows what is going on behind the scenes. But if you really believe in something, and you believe in it because it is in alignment with who you are, you will be resilient around the difficult times. I think I was lucky because I learnt resilience at a really young age and the power in getting back up and keeping on going and listening. Shutting something down if it is not working or keeping something going if its got a flicker of light and just pushing through. So really it just comes down to resilience and keeping on working in it and keeping creating in it and having fun! It has to be fun!
Alexandra: As always we could chat all day long and still not get to the end of a riveting conversation… but I think it’s time for a Rose? Care to join?