To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Norwich design consultancy The Click has launched an online clothing and lifestyle brand, Nor-Folk. We spoke to co-founder Bobby Burrage about the thinking behind the studio's latest venture, and why it launched the business through Instagram before setting up a website.
Founded in 2005, The Click is run by Bobby and Fiona Burrage. The pair had planned to launch a book and exhibition to celebrate ten years of business, but when the time came, Burrage said they wanted to do something a little more ambitious instead – “we decided to draw upon our own skills, knowledge and network which we’ve built over the years and, in turn, create and launch our own brand. After all, we’ve created enough for clients over the years,” he adds. With a keen interest in typography, interiors and Scandinavian design, they decided to set up a lifestyle brand aimed at creative professionals and “design-appreciating parents”.
The brand's first collection, titled The Wonder Years, features a series of typographic t-shirts for toddlers (expertly modelled online by their son, Stanley). It also sells Nor-Folk branded adult sweats and t-shirts alongside typographic prints, tea towels and calendars - though Burrage says not all of its products will feature the same black-and-white aesthetic: "we plan to add more colour and other typographic variants to the collection," he says.
The pair is also working on products with other design and clothing brands abroad, including a range of alphabet books created with other graphic designers, a pair of slippers with Swedish brand Mini Mocks and a collaboration with kidswear brand Gardner and the Gang.
"At present, Nor-Folk is very much a side project which is operating alongside The Click's client work, although it's clear that there is scope to grow the business in to something much more established very quickly," he explains. The pair has already secured secured 16 stockists in America, Australia and Europe and hired a full-time staff member to manage day-to-day operations, within just a few days of launching its website.
It's not the first online retailer to offer typographic prints or minimal monochrome clothing, of course, but Nor-Folk has already developed a substantial following online and it's impressive to a side project like this take off so quickly.
The Click has launched several side projects in the past, with varying degrees of financial success, says Burrage, but with Nor-Folk, it was able to secure stockists, take orders and arrange collaborations with creatives via Instagram before investing in physical stock or a functioning website (the brand also has Twitter and Facebook profiles but says Instagram is its number one marketing channel, and has so far earned over 13,000 followers on the site). As a result, The Click was able to gauge interest in its products and secure funding for its inaugural collection before launching.
"We posted mock-ups and photographs to showcase our design ideas, and had 30 emails from stockists over night. After we'd secured wholesale orders, we started taking individual pre-orders over Instagram and had around 600 in just six days," he explains.
"We've set up online projects in the past, selling posters and prints, but had to produce them in advance, and pay a programmer to set up a website before we'd sold any products. That can be quite an investment, and there's a lot more risk and effort involved. This time, we wanted to keep that risk as low as possible," he adds.
Nor-Folk's website also includes a lifestyle blog, The Journal, which Burrage says will showcase the brand's home county and offer tips and articles on travel, interiors, fashion and other brands of interest to customers. Contributors so far include a Norwich-based food writer, a menswear designer and a photographer who will be shooting series around Norfolk for the site.
Burrage is keen to point out that the brand isn't "all about Norfolk", however, adding: "we also want to sell products from international shops and designers, and publish content about or by people from other parts of the world. It's more about introducing Norfolk to the world, and vice versa - but our audience is global." For now, the business is online only (though the pair are considering pop-up outlets at events), and Burrage says it will be "business as usual" at The Click.