Get to know: Ark Colour Design

We've got brand new pieces from Ark Colour Design up on our website right now for you to shop. This week, we spoke to the team based in Cambridge about their design process, inspiration and thoughts on being an independent UK brand.

Have a read of the interview below and browse what we've got available from them in New Arrivals.

Tutti Frutti Popper Purses in Pink, Green and Black

You have backgrounds in fashion and art. What made you decide on creating a lifestyle gifting brand and which skills (other than the design element) have you found helpful in building your business?

Before we started ARK Colour Design we worked together for 15 years buying for our Cambridge shop. We were finding it harder to source unique products that were both well made and fun. Working with a couple of manufacturers we had met on our travels we made our first samples and took them to a trade show. From there we met some amazing buyers who we still have great relationships with, including Liberty’s. We have evolved over the years to focus on British made to capitalise on the amazing skills and resources we have in the UK.

Our previous experience in running a bricks and mortar shop has definitely given us the backbone to run a wholesale design business. We have a strong focus on customer service which is sometimes lacking on the wholesale end. Orders are dispatched quickly and we are easy and flexible to work with. Our priorities always lie with the independent retailers and we will (and have) refused bigger chain stores if there’s an overlap with one of our existing suppliers.

Colour is a big part of your designs and your overall brand personality. What inspired this?

We love colour! Neutral just doesn’t suit our personalities. Colour transcends through how people interpret a product. Our boob and willy key fobs are available in twelve colours and people can then match the colour to their personality or identity.

Keyrings in Cornflower, Burnt Orange and Pink

Where do you find inspiration for new designs?

We have lots of books and reference material in our studio and get a lot of inspiration from artists as varied as William Blake, Philip Guston and Neo Rauch. We love a magazine subscription and have a good stack of Vogues and World of Interiors. But inspiration can come from anywhere, we’re quite often coming into the studio with a funny vintage toy or purse that sets off a new design or drawing.

A lot of your designs are very tongue in cheek and often topical; how important do you think it is to have a visible political/social stance?

We like to have a bit of bite to our designs. We find if it makes us laugh when we see it, it’s generally a winner. We don’t try to make big political statements but rather reflect what is going on in the world around us.

We put our efforts into operating in a way that match our ethics. We keep waste to an absolute minimum. From last year we are plastic free with all our packaging. After Covid, we decided to have a stronger focus on family time and reduced our working hours to four days a week with no pay reduction for staff. We’ve banned Amazon purchases and our staff bring their dogs to work (say hello to Dudley and Nala!). We are in the fortunate position that we can direct how we want our company to operate and these are small things that hopefully have a positive impact with our staff and the world around us.

Abstract Popper Purses in Cornflower and Pink

What are the pros/cons of designing and manufacturing your products in the UK, especially through the coronavirus pandemic?

Deciding to bring all our manufacturing to the UK was the easiest decision we’ve had to make. We visit our manufacturer regularly, we know all the employees by name and we can say with absolute certainty that no one has been exploited. When the Covid crisis hit, we noticed other brands who were sourcing from abroad were having supply issues. When we decided to re-open, we had stock with us in the same week. As for negatives, it’s hard to find any! We have been incredibly lucky with the people we work with.

You have stockists all across the world. What advice do you have for a small business that wants to expand internationally?

The most effective way to find new customers is to exhibit at trade shows, both in the UK and abroad. They are a bit of a slog, but well worth the effort. Sadly they have all been canceled for the time being. They were our twice yearly opportunity to meet all our amazing customers and drag out all the sequin and glitter outfits. So we’ll be sitting in all our finery updating our instagram profile instead.

What is the dynamic of your duo? Do your job roles overlap or do you each have separate skills within the company?

For the most part we overlap with skills, we share all the creative elements. However Jane is terrible with computers and I am a terrible negotiator so for the day to day I’m translating sketches into designs and Jane is finding our next business opportunity.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?

Go for it! Don’t spend money you don’t have and don’t worry about how everyone around you operates - make it work for you. When we started doing trade shows we stood out because we were the only ones who painted crazy backdrops!

'Throw Some Shapes' - Large Purse in Blue/Green and Pink/Red

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