Curation is somewhat of a business buzzword at the moment and with the constant influx of publishers, influencers and brands in our social media feeds you can certainly see why. Tastemakers are becoming increasingly important in helping people wade through the wall of noise and the never-ending options available to us all.
Bethany Rowntree is one such tastemaker. As Director of Studio B Bethany is responsible for curating the best in fashion and accessories, using her experience and expert eye to support some of the industry’s most exciting new brands. We spoke with her about the art of curation, what she looks for in a brand and what makes her own brand just so popular.
Hi Bethany. Let’s start with the brands you work with, how do you decide which ones to feature on Studio B?
I’m looking for brands that offer something a little bit different, whether that’s represented in the aesthetic of the product or the way they are made, but mostly these seem to go hand in hand. I want the products to be a little bit more special and unique; something different to what you’d find on the high street and products that are more a style choice rather than a generic trend.
I’m also sticking to a price range of premium but attainable, the type of things you wouldn’t necessarily buy every day but aren’t outrageously priced - I always say I’d eat tinned soup for a week to buy something but not for a whole year! For example, stop always buying five things in Zara everyone else will have and buy something lovely you’ll love for longer from us!
Also, part of the criteria is I have to love them, there’s nothing on Studio B that I wouldn’t want to buy myself! I always have loved clothes and well, stuff, but noticed what I wanted had changed. I was so bored of shopping in the same places all the time and would much rather invest more in one amazing item I love and know will wear time after time.
Is it easy to stick to this criteria or do you find yourself having to adapt and evolve?
I find it easy to find new brands I like, but finding new lovely things to buy has never been a problem of mine! I find most brands through Instagram and there’s so many smaller makers and independents out there that fit perfectly and that’s just in the UK. There are more and more I keep seeing in Europe that fit the bill too and I’d like to expand into including these brands when I can. I’ve always looked for things that are a bit different, even when I was much younger, so I don’t find it hard to find brands that offer what I’m after for Studio B.
You’ve previously talked about wanting to feature 'authentic' makers - what do you think defines an authentic brand?
Passion, you can tell when people are really doing it for the love and believe in what they produce. It’s hard work to grow a brand so you’ve got to believe in what you’re creating, and you know that each sale really means a lot to them. Also, the way they produce makes them authentic in my eyes, all the UK based independent brands on the site know exactly where they produce, and a lot do so locally in London or Yorkshire where a few of our brands are based. Some also hand craft themselves which I find amazing. Most the jewellery brands we have on the site handmake to order, the fact you know someone is making this piece specially for you I think add to this and I’d be fully prepared to wait the week or two whilst this is being crafted.
"I always wonder how long the influencer bandwagon will last now it’s more obvious people are being marketed to."
What qualities do you think are the most important for brands in your industry?
Honesty and personality, this can define your brand. People want to know more about what they’re buying and from who, these brands have a story to tell and they need to tell it through themselves and realise that they are part of the brand.
Instagram has made everything so accessible and a brand can really show their personality; people want to see this behind the scenes image and see products being made, see them being worn by real people, see inspirations, mood board, photoshoot sand so on. Just keep it real and be honest. Customers are wise and yes Instagram creates a beautiful image, but they know that. I always wonder how long the influencer bandwagon will last now it’s more obvious people are being marketed to.
What is it about the Studio B brand that people find appealing?
I think people like the mix of new and smaller brands they might not have heard of. We’ve then mixed this with a few more established ones but from Denmark to add a point of difference. We’ve got a little something for everyone and have kept the selection edited making it easier to shop - who really has time to scroll endlessly through massive sites with literally hundreds of options of very similar black dresses, for example. We’re the opposite, hopefully you’ll know what you’re getting and come to us if you want something a bit more unique, well made, at a premium but “I can actually afford” price point. We’re trying to encourage an ethos of buy less, buy better, love more, love longer - I love finding pieces from years ago I still love.
Lastly, what one piece of advice would you give to all the aspiring curators out there?
Hmm, I would say think of how you would style it, how would you pair things together and really wear it. I’ve shown some pieces hanging together to give customers this idea. I’d also think about the brand values, are they well matched, do they sit well together, would you find these brands next to one another in an ideal world?