East London has a reputation for being the thriving hub of creativity in London, and this reputation is well earned. We continue to see more exciting makers and creators emerge from this part of London, like lifestyle brand Earl of East London. Paul Firmin and Niko Dafkos are the creative force behind this recently created brand, which they launched just over 6 months ago. Fuelled by a passion for vintage wares, they started a weekend market stall in Netil Market, near the infamous Broadway Food Market. With ambition to grow their business and a desire to support independent makers and emerging brands, they have since moved their retail concept into a shipping container in the same market.
Collaborating with other makers is one important focus of their business where they enjoy the challenge of working with someone from another craft. They recently paired up with Thidaa of Blue Guy Pottery to create a candle and vessel set as part of their Wanderlust series. It was so well received, that the night the products were launched, the entire series sold out. This highlighted to them the demand for locally made products. Paul and Niko realised that people want to buy from local makers, which lead them to create their own line of products.
They recently launched their own candle line under the Earl of East brand, that are handmade and hand poured in small batches, available in 2 sizes and 3 scents - Greenhouse, Smoke & Musk and Wildflower. Scents that were inspired by their childhood and travel experiences, and their candles smell as good as they sound. Starting out with candles was a natural progression for them since the first brand they stocked was PF Candle Co. They are also available to make bespoke, customised candles with a scent to your liking. But they don't intend to stop there, and have further products in the pipeline such as leather goods, incense burners, men's jewellery and other exciting lifestyle products.
I spent some time with them at their shop and in their home based studio. It was both hypnotising and therapeutic to watch them hand pour the candles. The combination of different essential oils emanated throughout their entire home, filling it with a wonderful, lingering scent. These guys are incredibly talented and hard-working, with this business taking up their spare time outside their full-time 9 to 5 jobs. You wonder how they have found the time but they have done it, and because of that, I have so much admiration and respect for them.
// What is Earl of East? How did it come about?
Earl of East London is a lifestyle brand based in London. We combine a love for mid-century and future heritage products, and carry a variety of vintage collectables, home decor items and personal accessories. We carefully select every item and strive to source independently made products from the best emerging brands and artisans. As part of our own creative exploration we have recently developed our own range of interior fragrances inspired by our travels and memories. Over the last year we've also been working with over 15 international brands offering their handmade goods exclusively to the UK and European audience.
// Earl of East is an interesting name. Where did the name come from?
It was my (Paul) nickname in an old job. Having only lived East in London I was always trying to convince my colleagues to move to the East End too. When I left to go and work elsewhere, I decided to set up a blog named Earl of East London to keep them up-to-date with everything going on in the area just as a bit of fun. It ended up being part of the reason that Niko and I met. Together we made it a bit more serious, reviewing places and interviewing interesting characters, and shared our love for the area. After a while our day-to-day lives meant we put the blog on hold - a year later we had decided to set up a market stall and figured we would use the name and platforms for that purpose. I guess essentially, Earl of East has become our creative outlet. I never really saw that happening a few year ago.
// You currently have a shop in a shipping container in Netil Market, London. What kind of products can we find in your shop?
Before occupying the shipping container, we traded at Netil Market as regular stall holders. During that time we saw people come and go, and learned from each one of them. So when we decided to take on the shop we knew what the challenges and opportunities would be. Making the space inviting enough for people to interrupt their market browsing attitude and walk through the door was a necessity. We wanted to create a space that's inviting and appealing to as many people as possible. We really wanted to visualise the inclusivity we stand for.
// You also develop and sell products under your own brand. What products can we expect to find?
Our first ever product was a collaboration with a local ceramicist. Together we created the vessels which we turned into candles under the series name Wanderlust - we already have plans to create another batch of the candles as the first set sold out during our launch event. We also have another product in the works. We have just launched our own line of small batch, hand poured candles, under the Earl of East brand with 3 signature scents - Wildflower, Smoke & Musk and Greenhouse, this will be the first of our products that will be available with other retailers. In addition to these we have other collaborations in the works including leather goods, we feel its important to work with other local makers as we can all learn so much from each other and help each other to grow.
// Where do you get your inspiration from?
Travel - we have been so inspired by the US, everyone there seems to have a craft or side line and that is something we feel is happening here now too. It feels like we are entering a new age of makers, who are tired with working in service and want to do something more tangible whilst still holding down careers. You can learn so much from being in different places, your eyes are always wide up when you travel and when you come back home it always feels like you see your own city differently too. Magazines are another great inspiration, there is a new way of indie magazines, like Ernest Journal and Another Escape which we stock in our shop. They showcase makers, craft and the beautiful photography, which is very much an inspiration for our Instagram feed. We want our own feed to be about lifestyle not just about us and our products, which thats in there too but we think its more important to make the feed a representation of what makes us tick and inspires us. That of course leads us on to Instagram as a source of inspiration, we have genuinely made some great friends as a result of Instagram and that is incredible. There is a real like minded tribe on the platform who inspire each other.
// Being a partnership, describe the roles you both play in the business?
We balance each other really well, its amazing being able to be partners and work together so easily because we know that wouldn't work for everyone. I think the main thing is having another person to sense check your ideas, we both have a similar aesthetic and end goal but different ways of approaching it. Right now we try and work across all things so we have an understanding, Paul is more of the finance and book keeping guy, and Niko does more of the outreaching to potential brands and stockist for our own line. We both still work at the shop together as it is something we love to do, although we are now realising that we might have to start splitting our time a bit better to grow a little faster.
// Any exciting collaborations or news to share?
We are currently working on leather goods, we will have 2 items for the home a valet tray and an incense holder plus 2 personal items in the form of a coin purse and a key chain. We are also in the process of working with one of our US friends on an event and we are hoping that by the end of the year we can start doing some one to one candle making sessions where people can create their own custom scent.
// Where else can we find your products stocked?
We have literally just launched the candle line but have a few stockists lined up already which is great. We're working on a revived website which will have a stockist section so I guess people will have to head over to the site and check it out. Our hope is that we can work with stores that have a similar vision to us, with a focus on independent stores.