Artists create city retail store

By Katie Holland

An innovative shared retail space has opened in central Rotorua, showcasing the work of four local artists.

The Living Room Collective, in the previously empty store beside Eruera St's Elim Gallery, is divided into four corners that are occupied by award-winning fashion designer Adrienne Whitewood, furniture and homeware designers Grace and Glory and The Styx and antique/collectibles trader The Collectors Corner. It opened on Monday to a steady stream of curious shoppers.

At a time when many Rotorua stores were closing, Ms Whitewood said sharing costs and space was one of the only ways emerging artists and designers could afford their own retail presence.

"You've got to get creative with retail at the moment," she said.

"It's not financially feasible to go out on your own." She said collaborating with others was the "future of retail" for small businesses and it was exciting to bounce ideas off other like-minded artists.

Ms Whitewood, who showed off her Summer 2013 collection TANIKO on TVNZ's Good Morning show last week, said until now her clothing had been available only online or at RAVE.

Styx owner Robyn McMillan had her own Eruera St shop for seven years, until it closed 18 months ago. Since then, she has been trading online but said she was enjoying being in a store again.

"I missed my customers. It's lovely to have that contact back again," she said. "As much as online is where the future is, a lot of Rotorua people still prefer physically shopping."

The man behind The Collectors Corner, who wanted to be known only as Jason, never planned to set up a shop. However when Elim Church pastor and the collective's landlord Jasmine Robbins saw his garage of quirky antiques while buying a vintage lamp, she immediately took her friend Tammy Cowlishaw of Grace and Glory back to check it out.

"They saw my taste and asked whether I would be interested [in the collective] and one thing led to another," Jason said. "It's exciting because this is all my creation ... purchased by my eye, things I liked."

Ms Cowlishaw said she hoped the store would appeal to Rotorua shoppers, with the aim being for it to continue on a long-term basis in the city.

"We have a lot more plans for the future ... it's exciting."

The four will take turns working in the shop, which is open seven days a week. The Living Room Collective's official opening is on Friday from 5pm to 7pm. All are welcome for drinks, nibbles and the chance to check out what's on offer, including Ms Whitewood's latest collection.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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