First Leg of the Journey
Over the past few days, I have been traveling around the Olympic Peninsula with Regina Tierney, owner of Celtic Fusion Design, with the intent of locating small businesses that might be interested in stocking some of her items. We started in Port Angeles and looked at a couple shops in the downtown area and ended up approaching the small clothing boutique in ‘Country Aire Market’. They were very interested in the designs we had to show them and requested a catalog and price list; seemingly very excited to hear that the designs were originals based in Ireland. After that, we headed to Port Townsend and looked for similar shops. We first stopped at ‘At Worlds End’, a steampunk themed shop that had plenty of fantastical-inspired clothing in stock. The owner’s response was rather short and she instead pointed us to the Celtic shop down the road called ‘Wandering Aengus.’ We were a bit hesitant to approach this store, since American Celtic stores seem to be more focused on kitsch than quality, but we went ahead anyway. The owner of the store responded positively, but she didn’t seem to bite on the sustainability or quality of the product. After those experiences, it became quite apparent that the market we are looking for in the States are the stores that have a distinct focus on sustainability and who are (as well as whose customers) willing to pay the extra money to ensure that their products are ethically sourced rather than those that have a focus on a particular aesthetic theme.
After the peninsula, we headed to Olympia, Lakewood, and Tacoma. We stopped at a few stores that seemed to stock items that may go with the theme of Celtic Fusion, but each time we were startled to see the lack of quality and continuity in the stores. After approaching a store called “Crescent Moon” in Tacoma and having an employee ask Regina if she had an Etsy store upon learning that she designed her on clothes, we came to a realization: there is a massive gap in the retail-store market for alternative clothing that is also made with top quality materials. So much of a gap, that the employee of a store whose theme was a perfect fit for Celtic Fusion didn’t recognize it as a product that could suit the store at all.
After that experience, we sat down and re-strategized. Based on the countless positive reactions of the people we had encountered during our travels, it was very clear that there is a market for the product that Celtic Fusion has to sell. However, people in the United States (and quite possibly the rest of the world) seem to look past in-person shops as a way of accessing that particular brand of fashion and instead look to the internet as a source of inspiration. It suddenly made a world of sense – alternative-styled clothing is hard to know what to do with unless you are able to see it styled on a model; almost hand-fed to the consumer. In this way, stores have a hard time selling products that they don’t know how to present themselves. Instead, the most valuable thing you can do for a product that is authentic and out of the ordinary is to show potential customers exactly what they can do to make your product work for them. We realized quickly that online marketing strategies and festival stalls dedicated to the one shop are where the real advantages are. So, we decided to continue the journey with a new focus; taking as many beautiful photos for the shop’s website and Instagram page as possible, and looking into how to prepare for vending at festivals next summer.