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Trader Profile-Hirsch & Kirsch

Hirsch & Kirsch focuses on a ‘Modern Craft’ aesthetic through minimalist shapes paired with bold graphic details, surface patterns and contrasting colours, to produce visually striking pieces.

In this month’s Q&A, Christina talks about getting out of the comfort of her studio, the community to be found in market trading, and design influences from global travel to the Radstock Museum.

Hi Christina! Tell us a bit about Hirsch and Kirsch, and how you got started…

My background is in fashion and accessories. I first worked with leather as a fashion student at Winchester School of Art over 15 years ago. I was fascinated by the tactility, colour and ways in which it could be applied and manipulated as a material. After working for several luxury fashion brands in my twenties as a product developer and designer, I took an extended 8 month research trip in 2009, overland from the UK to China and witnessed leather artisans in countries such as Syria, India and Nepal using traditional tanning and leatherwork techniques. It proved to be the inspirational turning point.

After returning, my husband and I relocated to Frome and found cheap studio spaces and a wonderful artistic community. I started working on the Hirsch & Kirsch label and initially sold through Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Seed in Frome and Luna & Curious in East London. I took a break to have our children but re-launched the brand last year after moving to a live/ work space in Midsomer Norton.

Where do you get your inspiration, what motivates you to do what you do?

The label grew out of my own need for products that were beautiful yet functional and not overly engineered. I love the idea and simplicity of a ‘Vessel’ but it needed to have a colourful element which is where the debossing comes in.

I am and have always been, heavily influenced by travel, art, design, architecture and textiles. I’m fascinated by the industrial landscape of Somerset, the old factory buildings, quarries and local vernacular but also it’s incredible leather history. We are lucky to have the fantastic Radstock Museum just down the road too which I’m slowly exploring.

Why did you choose to come and trade at the Frome Independent?
I’ve been visiting the Frome Independent since it first started and it was always a monthly highlight. Supporting local shops, producers and designer / makers, eating amazing food, meeting up with friends and dancing with your kids on the Village Green. I don’t know of any other markets that have so much to offer. It made absolute sense to apply to trade there.

What do you like about market trading  – why not just sell online or through retail outlets?
For someone who could happily hide away in their studio, it was the one thing I wasn’t keen on doing initially but it has been such an overwhelmingly positive experience. As a start-up brand (but even for established ones), it’s vital to be able to stand in front of your work and talk about it. Engage with the public, tell your story, get feedback, gauge reactions and literally do your market research. I have learned a phenomenal amount just by chatting to customers and seeing the brand and product fully merchandised in my own mini-shop. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for though was how wonderful the community of makers and producers are out there. Everyone is doing their best and working incredibly hard to make their vision and passion work. They’re all incredibly friendly and supportive!

Tell us about your own favourite or best-selling product. How much work goes into creating it, why do you think this is your strongest product?
At the Independent the best selling items are the pouches, they are really multi-functional as are a number of our products which I think people like, they can choose how to use them; cards, coins, passports or as a clutch bag. I use Italian vegetable-tanned leather and the hardware comes from a family-run foundry in Walsall – the heart of the British Saddlery trade.

My personal favourite product changes all the time, depending on what I’m doing and where I’m going. The Shopper is the latest addition to the bag family which I’m currently carrying my life around in.

What is your favourite Frome shop, or stall to visit at The Frome Independent?
Frome Model Centre, an institution.