The clock is ticking down to the doors opening on quirky Corbridge-based lifestyle store RE’s latest capital idea.
For this Saturday will see the much-loved Northumberland shop famous for its idiosyncratic range of rare, remarkable, recycled, rescued and restored homewares and accessories taking up a permanent spot in one of the world’s most prestigious department stores.
RE at Liberty is set to officially open at 10am on Saturday at the historic London shopping emporium on Great Marlborough Street near Oxford Circus.
And owners Jenny Vaughan and Simon Young are hoping that Londoners who got their first taste of the retail phenomenon last summer when RE ran a pop-up enterprise at Liberty, will again be inspired to dig deep in support of the venture.
The business partners are understandably “ecstatic” to have been offered the permanent concession following the success of their four month pop-up experiment.
Simon says: “We were both shocked when Liberty came back to us and said they wanted a permanent RE outlet. It rather took our breath away, but needless to say we are ecstatic to have been given this opportunity.
“Liberty doesn’t have very many concessions. But that is what is so appealing. You go to some places and they are like mini shopping malls there are so many franchises under one roof, but Liberty still retains its individual store identity.
“I think that is why we appealed to Liberty; like them RE is quirky and off the beaten track.”
It was quite by chance that RE – which Jenny and Simon launched just over eight years ago in a disused building to the rear of a petrol station in the centre of Corbridge – first came to the attention of Liberty.
The pair, whose backgrounds are both in the fashion industry, use a china firm in Stoke to manufacture customised crockery. By co-incidence Liberty uses the same business, and on a visit the store’s home and gift buyer spotted a consignment of RE’s plates coming off the production line.
She thought they were so good she called Jenny and Simon to ask if Liberty could buy them wholesale. “We said we weren’t set up to do that,” Simon recalls, “but did say we would like to do something with Liberty.
“She then said, ‘I’ve got a better idea, why not do a pop-up shop?’ It all came completely out of the blue. But that is the joy of working with Liberty. They are relatively autonomous and have the power to action things directly.
“It was a lucky break. The rest, as they say, is history.”
The pop-up shop was housed in an atrium and attracted the attention of such high profile customers as the actress Keira Knightley, who bought a small flower painted cart.
The new outlet has seen RE promoted to its own self-contained 700 square foot space. “Before in the atrium you couldn’t see where the pop-up shop started and ended. Now we can actually create our own RE environment,” Simon explains.
It will stock restored and recycled goods as well as a number of Northumberland-inspired pieces from colourful hand knitted tea cosies to textiles, wire toasting forks and even a new range of environmentally friendly cleaners.
RE – which regularly appears in glossy homes and lifestyle magazines – has built up a thriving mail order business, especially in the Home Counties.
In March last year – just one month before RE’s pop-up enterprise opened at Liberty – Simon and Jenny picked up the prestigious Retailer of the Year accolade at the Homes and Gardens Designers Award.
Now the pair are looking forward to moving RE to a whole new retail level (literally) with the Liberty opening on Saturday. Simon says: “We’re really looking forward to the opening after seeing the response to the pop-up experiment. We hope to spread colour, pattern and joy!”
RE at Liberty will be divided into key product categories with an ever-changing calendar of seasonal displays focusing on key events and past times, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; British summer time; harvest festival and folklore; Hallowe’en and, of course, a recycled Christmas.
The ‘eat’ area will house candy-hued American milk glass cake stands, printed plates, coloured glass and a new range of skull shot glasses and tea light holders. The ‘cook’ section will focus on tea towels, vintage storage jars, scales and biscuit cutters.
‘Shrine’ will be dedicated to Simon and Jenny’s love of Mexican trinkets and Day of the Dead motifs, with a new Last Supper print range of tea towels and plates.
‘Outdoor’ will feature rusty metal signs, restored garden furniture and vintage pots and tools.
Meanwhile, ‘Utility’ will cater for the cleaning obsessed and those with a love of hardware.
Vintage wool blankets and a new range of nostalgic school blazer stripe cushions will make up ‘living,’ while old maps and framed pin boards will be available in ‘Office.’
Jenny and Simon are drawn to the unusual and the interesting and RE sells anything that corresponds to their idea of what is beautiful, “not precious or prescriptive, differentiating ourselves by offering the unexpected in unusual combinations making us unique,” Jenny says.
“We love utility, both old and new, small runs and mass production alike. We also sell cared-for second hand pieces like garden tools, lighting, textiles and furniture, because they are functional and still work.”
With RE at Liberty just days away from becoming a reality, a thriving mail order business and their visitor destination shop in Corbridge, what other REsourceful plans have Jenny and Simon got up their sleeves?
“After this week I think it might be the RE psychiatric unit,” Simon says with a laugh.
- Re, Bishops Yard, Main Street, Corbridge, Northumberland, NE45 5LA, www.re-foundobjects.com
- Re at Liberty is on the fourth floor just off the East Atrium at Liberty, Regent Street, London, W1B 5AH, www.liberty.co.uk