‘It’s the Norwegian word for friends,’ says Lucie Ellen, referring to the name of the sustainable gifts and homewares store she started with her mate Tiff Howick.
‘I’m half-Norwegian too,’ adds Tiff, ‘and so it also references our shared fondness for Scandi design. The word ‘Venner’ perfectly describes us, our suppliers, neighbours and customers: it’s basically the ethos of our business – being kind and friendly to the planet as well.”
With that in mind, everything the pair stock in the boutique on Leyton’s independent shopping haven, Francis Road, is handpicked and ethically (not to mention meticulously) made, from ceramics to jewellery, prints to skincare products. ‘There are over a hundred different micro businesses that we work with,’ says Lucie, proudly.
Rewind to the early 2010s and the friends’ paths first crossed while selling their own work – Lucie jewellery, Tiff screenprints – at designer-maker markets across London. ‘Over the years we had both met lots of lovely people who create the most wonderful treasures,’ says Tiff, and it was these diverse contacts who formed the backbone of the store.
Lucie had moved to Leyton in 2012, while Tiff’s history with the area goes back a couple of decades. By spring 2017 it therefore seemed natural to be talking about doing a local pop-up – which led to the friends stumbling across a property on Francis Road that had lain empty for six years. The pop-up idea was soon abandoned – and a bricks-and-mortar vision took hold.
They managed to track down the landlord, swiftly agreed a contract, and then set about restoring it. ‘Previously it had been a newsagent, a wine shop and an office,’ says Lucie. ‘We found beautiful floorboards underneath piles and piles of lino. We scrubbed, stained and varnished them, had to make all of our fixtures and fittings, put a kitchen in, and even make the counter: in fact, we did everything, pretty much.’ Lucky they’re both self-confessed DIY nuts.
Finally flinging open the doors on October 12th that year, from the start they wanted ‘to make sure that the things we’re selling do have the lightest impact. Shopping with us helps support our brilliant suppliers too, a fantastic bunch mostly based in the UK, who care about sustainability as much as we do. We’re proud to be part of the growing trend for conscious consumerism.’
Visit now and, to celebrate the store’s 4th birthday, you can enjoy 10% off all products until October 31st. Just quote Leytonstoner at the till or online as a discount code. Follow @venner_leyton on Instagram and Twitter.
Find Venner at 200 Francis Road, E10 6PR, open daily 10-5pm (Sundays 10-4pm). To explore the range and shop online from the comfort of your sofa click here.
Main image: Garry MacLennan.
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