Talk of ‘lofts’ and ‘attics’ immediately bring to mind romantic notions of antiques, long lost, just waiting to be unearthed by curious young explorers who have scrambled up old rickety stairs on a rainy day to fossick through the hidey holes of previous generations.
So it is with Bridgetown’s handmade boutique store, Loft, which began as a collective of likeminded, creative friends. The beautifully curated shop is packed full of goods made by over forty suppliers from Albany to Broome. Partners Victoria Meyer and Angela Nicholas giggle, “there’s handmade and then there’s handmade,” emphasising that they stock a wide range of quality home wares, gifts and clothing rather than “Aunty Maude’s hand-knitted Christmas jumper or the like.”
Don’t worry though, for lovers of lofts and the memories they conjure, there are still plenty of knitted and hand sewn clothes and almost half the shop is devoted to women's fashion and accessories. From the delightfully frilly baby bloomers of ‘Wee Tackers’ made by local mum, Angie Lawrence, to the funky clothing of ‘Karrie-Tree Designs’, vintage is clearly in vogue. Or as Karrie Pearce puts it, “my clothes are a 'little bit' vintage, a 'little bit' hippy and 'lot bit' well made.”
There are some other aspects that make Loft a ‘lot bit’ worth supporting. Victoria and Angela have prioritized ethical business practices, ensuring Loft has a strong foundation so that “they can build into others.” They donate a portion of profits to Kiva Loans, an international not-for-profit that provides micro-loans to women in developing countries to become financially independent. Closer to home, Loft also sponsors a child through The Smith Family charity.
Another focus is developing the work of the makers Loft represents. A few years ago, Bridgetown artist, Rebecca Heggers, brought in a small print of one of her ink and pencil bird illustrations with the caveat, “I’m not sure they’re good enough for your shop.” Angela and Victoria immediately requested a limited print run at a larger size and before long these all sold out. Angela says, “we really try to be encouraging, if our artist’s grow, so do we.”
So although they are always on the lookout for new and unique products, Loft puts its suppliers ahead of potential stock; preferring to invest in smaller WA based craftspeople who use sustainable practices, rather than just filling the shop. They stock ‘Savi Earthlings’, a Margaret River based skincare and cosmetics brand that uses 98% Australian renewable resources in its organic, vegan friendly products. There’s also ‘The Last Straw Company’ founded by a mother of three from Perth Hills whose frustration at the volume of plastic straws used by her family led her to create a stainless steel version.
There is an intentionality and consideration that goes into these products that is reminiscent of the well-made heirlooms of the past. As I eagerly plunge into the Loft collections for a thorough browse, I notice the touch of ‘slow living’ everywhere.
This includes small production runs of unique items, like Angela’s ‘Little Lola’ pinafores made under her brand ‘Tangled Robin’. “I enjoy adding little things to make each one individual,” she confirms. Victoria also tries to source soft, distinctive fabrics for her classic women’s clothing label ‘Diddums Designs’ and says that it’s inspiring when she sees someone wearing clothes she has made, “I love experimenting so that everyone gets something unique, no-one else has.”
All the products and most of the ingredients or materials are Australian owned and made, and makers promote smaller environmental footprints. ‘Youanme’ for example, a mother-daughter team from nearby Boyup Brook, make candles from a soy/beeswax blend with natural wood wick and provide re-usable calico bags to carry them home in.
The story of the product is also celebrated. ‘Emily G’, a young schoolgirl from Pemberton sells impressive artworks of animals at Loft and donates all the profits to her family’s charity ‘Kufunza’ which supports nutrition amongst East African schoolchildren. Finally, there is the overriding focus on quality over quantity which defines every product, including ‘Bron’s Ceramics’ gorgeous, tiny ceramic flowers hand pressed and painted, and Marguerite Aberle’s miniature watercolour greeting cards of the Australian landscape.
Victoria and Angela are driven by community, creating a space to develop makers and constantly seeking new ways to promote them. Whether this is through Angela’s cleverly curated shop displays, Victoria’s ever-increasing social media skills, or by expanding sales with their online store, Loft is determined to help their community grow. “We live by the idea that the more you give, the more comes back to you.” The only problem with such a bright future is that, just like any attic, there are already more than enough treasures to keep you busy for many visits to Loft.
Address: 117 Hampton Street, Bridgetown, WA, 6255
Phone: (08) 9761 4756