15 Feb 2012
Ecclesall Road is noted for its vast range of restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes and shops, including many one-off boutiques. That’s what Wikipedia says about it anyway, and when are they ever wrong? One of these shops has resided there for around three years, although it’s changed direction slightly since starting out selling furniture and home accessories. With it’s laid-back and friendly atmosphere, you’re always welcome at Kuji, we found out what sets it apart, and what else they do besides selling supplying Sheffield with fresh garms.
Kuji Shop, a name inspired by the Chinese furniture they used to stock, had to quickly adapt to the economic climate. - “It started bringing in smaller, cheaper items and eventually pieces of clothing. Since then it’s grown naturally and started holding more fashion.” - The shop steadily grew, eventually moving to a larger premises around a year ago and taking on more staff to accommodate. The shelves now hold host to not only clothing from brands such as Blood is the New Black, Asobi Fashion, Crow & Dunnage, Supremebeing, KR3W, Conquer and Dirty Face, but also Jewelry from Galibardy, stationary and cameras from Lomography.
As well as supplying the bigger brands, Kuji has a fabulous relationship with local designers and are keen to promote the smaller labels. This is also important for the customers who enjoy discovering fresh talent. - “We choose labels/brands for a reason and we want to see them do well!” - Kuji prides itself on it’s individuality, sourcing products that you can’t find anywhere else as well as providing a personal service achievable through the in-depth knowledge of their stock.
The shop has been the launch pad for their home-grown label TeeBag Designs, products of which range from clothing and bags, to stationary and prints. The range, mostly designed by local artists, are also made ethically, certified fair-wear and sustainably produced. Each garment is printed locally by hand using natural dyes.
Kuji’s support to the Sheffield’s fantastic sub-culture spreads beyond the items they stock. Little things such as holding flyers and posters for gigs and events, selling tickets, working with local artists and their recent Lomography competition all contributes. This also adds a level of interest to the shop you wouldn’t be able to find on the high street. – “Anyone can go to H&M and know exactly what to expect, we try to make it so you come here and find something unusual or unexpected. What’s the point in having the same stuff as anyone else? It’s also great for the labels because they’re getting exposure which can hopefully push them forward.”
About two years ago, as Kuji were thinking about creating their own stock using artist’s work, they came up with the inspired idea of also asking them to design the window display. This is another win-win situation, meaning that Kuji’s window display has a monthly makeover, but it also gives the artists the chance to apply their style to a canvas that would be seen by probably thousands of passers by and that all-important portfolio booster. The photos also get posted all over the social networks and are blogged endlessly. Go over to Kuji’s albums on Facebook to take a look at some of the past exhibits, and if you’d like to get involved, drop the shop an email with your idea, plans/sketches/photographs/anything to give them an idea of what you’d want to do. – “It’s important to remember that this isn’t an exhibition – our window is there to sell stock, but this is a great way to try something different and looks good on your CV.”
Kuji is a great example of how diverse you need to be to do well in the industry, and how helping out the small guy can pay off for everyone involved. In a time when banker’s bonuses and corporate greed are common topics in the tabloids and on social networks, we at HuWho support the independent stores such as Kuji and the great things they do to support the local scene, supplying some darn good clothing in the process.
“Have an idea and be specific. Look at the market and competition around you, what do you have that others don’t? Although we do a lot to support local labels, we have to turn lots away because they’re not up to scratch or unique enough. Make sure you’ve got the quality as well as the quantity. Most of our customer’s are repeat and I think that’s a testament to the service we give. We know our products inside out – the Lomography cameras are a good example, people usually come in asking for help or how to achieve certain effects etc, and we can help out. I think there are lot’s of risk-takers in the Sheffield fashion world, which is great, it keeps it interesting. Just look a bit further than the high street, it’s there to find!”
Don’t forget to keep an eye out on HuWho as well will be bringing you interviews with the artists of Kuji’s new window display every month.
By Ashley Wilson / Photos courtesy of Kuji Shop