Re-Found Objects founded by Simon Young and Jenny Vaughan is a business I have watched grow from a small mail order company in rural Northumbria to a much sought after design brand featured regularly in top design magazines, establishing pop-ups in London and over a year-long concession at Liberty. I remember interning at Elle Decoration many many years ago now when the brand had just launched and calling in their much sought after oversized cardboard letters for shoots time after time – as everyone wanted to feature them!
Since then they have gone on to establish a name for themselves as purveyors of the unusual, recycled and re-invented from plaster Virgin Mary’s to pressed metal decorations and vintage trophies – and in my opinion one of the first companies to begin changing the landscape of high street design.
I spoke with Simon and Jenny about their path to success.
What did you do before RE?
We were both fashion designers, Simon worked for Betty Jackson in the 1980’s and Jenny worked for Quorum in the 70’s. We met teaching fashion at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University) and went on to work for Dewhirst (large M&S manufacturers) in the Corporatewear division. We both left in 2003 to set up RE.
How far do you live from the store?
About 6 miles south of Corbridge and 2 fields away from each other! Simon lives in an old stone quarry masters house circa late 18thC. Jenny lives in an old stone cottage of a similar age.
Describe a day in your life.
If it’s a typical day at work we lift share in our white van and get to work about 8.45am. The store opens at 10am but there’s always lots of emails, orders, admin, press requests, customer enquiries etc. to deal with. We have a small team of 5 full time and a couple of part time staff so that gives us the opportunity to plan ahead designing our own “REgd” [stands for Registered] products, planning photo shoots, buying trips etc
Where do you find your stock?
All over the place! We buy new products from around the world – UK, Europe, Eastern Europe, USA, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Morocco, Senegal, China, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, India & Vietnam amongst others.
With the REgd. products we try to manufacture as much as possible in the UK. The 2nd hand items come from flea markets and antique fairs and we also have a network of dealers who scout for us.
Tell us about some new finds?
Wirework frames based on an old broken Hungarian item found at a flea market. We have had them remade in India and have designed some new tea plates, and collected vintage plates too, that fit into the wire holder. The perfect example of a combination of old, new, designed and found!
Some of our new plates are inspired by a collection of fabulous vintage marbled papers loaned to us by a local bookbinder. We have re-coloured them and we’ve had them produced in Stoke on Trent.
We have new designs of Memento cushions which are in the style of vintage souvenir scarves that we have collected over the years. The new designs, printed on silk, include Venice and Folkart – printed in the UK and manufactured in Northumberland.
How has RE changed from 2003 to now? You have had a lot of success online and in Liberty – was this path always a part of the plan?
The overall concept and principals remain the same. We always thought mail order was the growth area of the business with the store being our showcase. We never considered another store but when Liberty approached us to do the pop up followed by the concession we couldn’t say no! As we have grown we have broadened the range of products that we sell particularly the REgd. own brand
What do you feel was the turning point for your success?
Press coverage played a major part in our success and continues to do so. Starting off with an unknown shop which is tucked behind a petrol station in a rural Northumbrian village didn’t spell success but it has worked to our advantage. Picked up by the press customers began to ‘discover’ us – we were so different to the familiarity and repetition of the high street, also establishing the REgd. brand (exclusively designed and made by us) brought individuality to our offer which really helped differentiate us.
Tell us about the collaboration with Liberty
We had a 4 month pop up in 2011 and then opened a concession in 2012 which has just finished this month. The project was a great success for both parties and as a result we have designed an exclusive range RE@Liberty launching this October. The range includes bone china plates, glasses, baskets, cushions, vintage textiles, throws and other unique items. We are really looking forward to the collection being in store – Liberty is a perfect partner for us.
What’s in the pipeline for RE?
More exclusive designs and hopefully other collaborations and maybe a book we have a blueprint in mind!!