Alison Satasi, moved back to London from Bermuda in 2006 after thirteen years working for the Bank of Bermuda. She found the island a beautiful place to live but the banking industry very sterile and was itching to do something that was creative and with some social value.
With an ever present love for textiles and an interest in the communities and makers behind them, Alison opened Luma, an ethical shop selling luxurious organic and fair trade textiles, wallpapers and homewares in Barnes, South West London and never looked back.
Why did you decide to start the business?
I’ve always loved textiles. Even as a teenager, I’d come home from travels with my suitcase bursting with handwoven blankets or beautiful embroidery. For me, part of the appeal of textiles is the people behind them; you can find cottage industries in remote locations doing wonderful work with skills handed down through generations. When traveling in Peru, I’d learned about organic cotton farming and the benefits it was bringing to farmers and their families, as well as to the environment.
What was your vision for Luma?
I had decided to launch a range of luxurious, high thread count bed linen made from organic, fairly traded cotton and accessorise it with blankets and cushions that supported the small, local producers that I’d always liked.. That was back in 2005 and my first collection was launched in 2006.
To say that I’ve diversified since then would be an understatement! My shop is now bursting with homewares from baskets, to ceramics, to recycled wood frames … you name it. I’ve found suppliers who shared my ethos and also support small UK businesses and designer-makers.
Tell us about your set up.
I started with just a website focused on my own-label textiles collection. About 18 months later I opened the shop in Barnes and now we also run the website from there.
Describe a day in your work life.
My days are incredibly varied. But, if I’m not away on a buying trip, I might start the day working at home, replying to supplier emails and placing orders. Later, I often walk to the shop across the common with my dog, Bob, and spend a couple of hours there, perhaps styling new stock, training staff or helping customers. We also offer a furniture sourcing service, so I will pick up details of new requests to research later. I spend a lot of time researching new products for the shop or for customers.
Where do you find your stock? How do you plan your collections?
I’ve built up a wonderful group of suppliers now, including my original textile producers who make pieces just for me. And I’m always looking for new ideas, particularly things that are handcrafted. My challenge is always to rein myself in and create a collection that’s going to work well together in the small space of the shop.
Tell us about some new finds?
We’re bringing in lots of indigo and white for Spring and Summer. Including some pretty handprinted linen cushions from India and pottery made here in the UK.
What can readers expect from a trip to Barnes where the store is located?
Barnes is a great place for a day out. The London Wetland Centre is a very short stroll from the shop, a wonderful oasis with lakes, ponds and gardens. Across the road from us is the Olympic Cinema, converted from a famous recording studio, with a popular restaurant where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. You can then explore some little shops and walk past the common, complete with pretty duck pond, upto the river. Finally, you can stop for afternoon tea in Orange Pekoe on White Hart Lane.