A few months ago I was traveling to London for a business and leisure trip. As a curious artist/panda and an avid traveler I just intrinsically happen to love street markets for their exhilarating energy, their casual vibe, their immersive consumer experience, as well as their propensity to produce hidden gems; gems that you just rarely hope to find lying undiscovered in plain sight.
So, on a nice Saturday morning, as the sun was hesitantly shining over London, I decided to take a walk through the famed Portobello Road Market, to enjoy the day and do what else, but shop. Portobello is renowned for its many expensive antique shops and touristy souvenir sellers and not so much about its almost nonexistent art & fashion shops, but being one of the most picturesque roads in London I decided that it was worth the stroll.
As I was walking among the large stands that were crowding the road and enjoying an excellent cup of cappuccino, I barely noticed a small lone coffee table occupying a spot on the side of the road almost completely obstructed by the large stands around it. It struck me because instead of greedily occupying as much space as it possibly could, It was just humbly and comfortably standing in the middle of its spot. Next to it was an open old leather suitcase, completely covered with an assortment of colorful textiles, just as if someone had tried to cram an entire rainbow inside it. So I approached and joined the crazy crowd of people who were also trying to understand what did this weird stand have to offer.
Standing right beside the table, were these two young men who were passionately explaining the story behind their product. I sat patiently on the side of the stand waiting for the crowd to clear out, so that I get a chance to hear the story and understand what is the big deal behind all the fuss. After a few minutes and after several customers were very slowly taken care of, I found my chance and approached:
Their names were Konstantinos and Konstantinos, which I thought was hilarious. They told me they were two good old friends who decided to take a shot and create something new and adventurous, they called it Happycloth; and there it was, loosely arrayed on the coffee table, a product with an overly simple packaging and intriguingly vibrant colors. So what is it? Their eyes lighted up with 🔥 and Konstantinos started explaining the concept to me with a characteristically Greek accent:
“The product couldn’t be simpler” he explained
“It was just a square piece of silk”
He told me that it was this simplicity and vagueness in its use that has people magnetized.
“Everyone comes and asks about our product. We explain to them that it is just a beautiful piece of silk cloth they can use anyway they want. That’s when they start picturing all the different ways they can use it. As a handkerchief of course, but also as a bag accessory, a neckerchief, a hand accessory, a hair accessory and so on. Everyone starts getting creative with it”.
But this was not the entire story; the product itself hides an interesting tale behind it. So when I asked the other Konstantinos for details he explained:
“You see, Greece has a long tradition in silk making. The silk we use is sourced from Soufli, a small town in northern Greece that has been producing natural silk from silkworms for centuries, since the Byzantine Empire”.
They explained that it is the only town in Europe that still produces this natural high quality silk. He also told me that every one of these cloths is seamed by hand.
“How about the designs?” -I asked-
“Every design comes from a different artist across the world. We have designs from Canada, Brazil, Germany, the United States, Greece, and so on. We carefully selected our 12 designs after examining more than 40,000 patterns over the period of 3 months. We invested a lot of time and cared deeply about finding the most spectacular and interesting artworks”
And spectacular they were! What I loved even further was that in every box they included a small card with the story behind the artist and the inspiration of the design.
“It is a wonderful touch” I said enthusiastically. They were eager to explain to me that what they wanted was to provide a new form of expression and individuality, and simultaneously to promote the beautiful work of artists around the world.
“Visual art shouldn’t be something distant that we only see once in a while in a gallery or a museum, but rather a part of every day life”.
As the crowd of people behind me started getting larger and larger, and the other Konstantinos struggled to keep up with the customers, I asked what was their plan for the business. He told me that it is very important for them to get everything right, so they wanted to be in constant contact with the customers, there on the street.
“However, we would love to sell them to people all around the world. It is a great medium of expression and we really think that it would be great to sell online”
Before leaving I bought two of the designs: The called them Dunes and Worlds, designed by a Canadian and an American artist respectively. I must admit that up to now I have not been using them in an everyday basis, as the creators intended, but rather in special occasions with a suit or a nice shirt; but boy did they make an impression!
Its been almost two months since my visit and I wanted to find a way to get a few more for myself and for some gifts. I thought of looking them up in case I can find some way to contact them and ask them politely to send me a few pieces. So, a couple of days ago after googling for a while, I discovered to my surprise that the two Konstantinos were actually able to pull off creating a rudimentary online store. I contacted them through email and asked them about it (they were overly excited to hear back from a customer):
“Yes we are very happy to have an online store up and running for a little over a week now. However we are still selling the majority of our products on the street”.
You can find out more about these guys and their product on their little website happycloth.co.
More info: happycloth.co
The rainbow suitcase
The assortment of boxes
One of the two Konstantinos running the stand
One of my favorites
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