I know I may sound like a broken record when I tell you (over and over) how fortunate I am to work with such inspiring brands during those many years of blogging. But here we go again! For the Love of the North is here to prove myself again.
The brand started in 2017 by the husband and wife duo, Paul and Lucy Hull is focused on celebrating the beauty of the North, with the help of a team of fabulous creatives.
For the Love of the North has worked we have worked with over 60 different creatives who have all had an influence on our brand and shaped the way we represent the North and the North East. Read now my interview with Lucy.
Midlands Traveller: Tell me a little bit about your background in business.
Lucy Hull: On Valentine’s Day 2017, we (husband and wife duo, Paul and Lucy Hull) launched For The Love of The North.
I (Lucy) had come from an education background, previously working as a Deputy Headteacher whilst Paul was heading up local tourist information centres around the North East.
Unfortunately (or maybe as it turns out, fortunately) Paul was made redundant from this role a few years ago and together, inspired by our love of the region, we conceived an idea of working with and supporting local artists from around the region and selling their wonderful work
We began our journey with a few supportive artists and Paul working part-time on For the Love of The North but have now grown to welcome us both into the business full time.
MT: How did you come up with the idea of a business like yours?
LH: We adore where we live and are passionate about the people and places up North. Like many of our fellow northerners, Paul and I have always been such advocates for dismantling the ‘grim up north’ ideology that is so deep-rooted in UK culture and For the Love of the North matched our passion to support both the North and the local community.
MT: What is the main inspiration for your designs?
LH: The main focus of For the Love of the North is to celebrate the beauty of the North. We work with a fabulous team of local creatives. Our team initially started with the talented Ebony Newton Designs and Lisa Kirkbride, then, as we expanded, we have worked with over 60 different artists who have all had an influence on our brand and shaped the way we represent the North and the North East.
MT: Tell me about For the Love of The North’s mission?
LH: As the UK high street continues to adapt to changing consumer habits, small independent brands just like ours, are popping up in place of big-time retailers. We’re on a mission to promote all things Northern as well as championing sustainable and local shopping in every way we can.
At For the Love of The North, we run a quarterly newspaper that focuses on the local area and local shopping to promote fellow indie businesses and encourage others to shop small.
The independent high-street is something that has always been incredibly close to our hearts and, in recent years, it has become apparent that people are beginning to value their indie high-street more and more. We are actively promoting a sustainable shopping environment after discovering that retail was one of the biggest polluters annually.
We’ve exchanged plastic wrapping and bubble wrap for compostable packaging and are dedicated to working with creatives who are just as eco-conscious as we are. Our stock is reflective of this ideology with reusable products from Drawn By Rhiannon and our own exclusive vegan and organic tees and tote bags.
MT: What is unique about your business?
LH: Before the pandemic, Paul and I were very involved in a variety of charities and often visited schools and HQs to discuss how we could use our business to support the local community. Whilst we are still involved in these charities, our physical presence has been diminished by the pandemic, so we’ve used 2020 to support a range of initiatives in our own special way.
In early 2020, we collaborated with local artist Lisa Kirkbride who created an exclusive series of North East inspired NHS fundraising rainbow prints with 25% of each sale donated to local Northumbria NHS Trust’s Bright Charity. By the end of 2020, we had raised an incredible £10,000.
Whilst we’ve had to remain closed for much of 2020 and 2021 to date, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been supported by our local community. In a lockdown, we’d walk around our local area and it was amazing to see so many people had put our ‘Love will get us Through’ rainbow charity prints in their windows by way to express their solidarity.
We really believe that this was a catalyst in propelling our business forward. Not only has it cemented our continued support for our local community, but it has also focused us to ensure we have a viable online shopping experience for those times when we can’t see our customers face to face.
MT: What is your kind of clientele?
LH: Given our name, you can imagine that many of our customers have connections to the North. It’s incredible to see how global this has become since 2020 – one of our most regular customers actually lives in New York and orders gifts for his family as well as nostalgic items for himself Stateside.
We have lots of customers buying ‘a little piece of home’ as gifts to send to family all over the world, who they can’t see at the moment. We also had lots of parents buying their children northern inspired gifts to take away to university with them too.
MT: What are the challenges of a business like yours?
LH: Our biggest challenge has been navigating the multiple closures as a non-essential retailer and moving our business online. Over the past three years For The Love of The North has developed from an online gift shop to its first shop in Whitley Bay before opening stores across the North East; in the countryside at Corbridge, in the city centre of Newcastle upon Tyne and by the sea in Whitley Bay.
Currently, we reside beneath the iconic white dome of the Grade II-listed Spanish City.
With the many restrictions in place during the pandemic, we’re pleased to have made the decision to focus on this one flagship store, which is our hometown of Whitley Bay.
Although this has been closed for much of 2020 and so far in 2021, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have built up an engaged and supportive community through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and we were able to quickly re-invent our website to cope with the increased orders.
MT: In which ways is your business is supporting local artists and creative people?
LH: Our motto has always been “Proudly Supporting North East Creatives” and we support over 60 artists in the region.
We work with our creatives on developing many products, one example is our 2021 FTLOTN calendar where twelve of our favourite North East artists have contributed an image for each month of a location or landmark in the region that means something to them.
We’re now gradually developing exclusive partnerships with some of our most beloved creatives including Lisa Kirkbride, Net00n, Missus Print to work with us on unique as well as some limited-edition products.
MT: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a business like yours?
LH: Do something that you love as this passion will come through in everything you do. Surround yourself with supportive people who can help you achieve your vision and don’t be afraid to ask for help in areas where you need it to allow yourself time to focus on making the biggest impact you can in your business.
MT: What are the next steps for For the Love of the North?
LH: In 2021 we’re beginning to expand our growing family further south to include a collection of Yorkshire themed gifts and prints. We’ve also been working on developing letterbox gifts for different occasions. Our recent Mother’s Day gift set has had lots of interest and we look forward to launching more themes in the coming months.
As we get back to opening our store, we hope to be able to return to hosted workshops in the evenings where in the past we’ve offered everything from drawing classes to lino cutting workshops to Christmas wreath making.
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