I was poking around Instagram one day and ended up down some rabbit hole (as I usually do!) and came upon a UK shop in the heart of Brighton called Unlimited. This independent shop and gallery is focused on carrying emerging designers and makers, with wares that include textiles, homewares, furniture, jewelry and more.
Run by husband and wife team Patrick and Sara Morrissey, of Unlimited design studio, the shop actually started back in 2010 as a popup, where they’d show their own products alongside some of their favorite designers and makers. Clearly a success, they spotted a great location in Brighton and became a permanent fixture. Patrick contuse to run the Unlimited design studio, while Sara has turned her attention to running the shop and gallery. I spoke with Sara about what it’s like to run the shop:
Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?
Brighton has the vibrancy and creativity you find in London, but has the added benefit of a laid back attitude and beach! We made the move here from the capital some years ago and haven’t looked back. Our shop is located (with our studio) in the heart of the city’s creative community – the North Laine is a quirky mix of galleries, studios, independent stores, and cafes. An area both locals and visitors love because it isn’t the ’high street’… Shoppers here will find all sorts, just a short stretch from the station and beach. You can’t miss us as our shopfront shouts our design approach, reflecting the inside outside – colorful, graphic and playful! Though it might well have changed appearance the next time you pass… Got to keep things moving!
Where did you get the name for the store?
It is shared with our design studio and sums up our creative outlook – Unlimited by style, medium or concept, we create and enjoy design solutions that enlighten, enrich and entertain. As both designers and shop owners/curators we are always looking for new inspiration, ideas and approaches. Our scope is broad because we like to be engaged with what’s happening at any given time and willing to give things a go. Why limit yourself?
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
It’s changed a lot, but has grown organically and as a reaction to how we have evolved and been inspired. Originally, we threw open our studio doors at weekends to show off our friends/peers’ artwork. Then starting holding pop-up exhibitions and events. Before we knew it, we had a growing national reputation, and people were approaching us to sell their work for them! We quickly outgrew the space and needed to be open and accessible more than a couple of days a week!
We opened our current gallery space and shop in 2013, which has allowed us to explore and curate a much wider variety of graphic-edged design. As well as our ever-growing collection of prints, we’ve showcased furniture, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, even plants. The great thing is that the shop can (and does) change all the time.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
Just one? Haha. Retail is tough, especially in the climate we have all endured in the last few years. Art and design is rarely perceived as a must-have necessity. People will happily spend on a lunch and coffee, but take ages deciding on whether to spend the same on an artist-made piece they could enjoy for years! It’s the nature of ‘shopping’ these days! Culturally, we are so used to being told what is stylish, trendy or cheap by large retailers that competing with customers’ expectations as an independent shop is hard. Our strength, though, is to offer knowledgeable and passionate staff, and an ever-changing calendar of events, experiences and unique products. We can fundamentally just enjoy showcasing what we love.
What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?
My background is in the creative industry – I spent years as a practicing illustrator and teaching at a number of universities, before then completing an MA in typography and moving over into graphic design.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
That’s a tricky one as there’s just too many! Everything in here is personally selected because I love it!
What is this season’s theme/inspiration/story?
I think our inspiration is based on the individual maker. So I guess our theme is variety. We aren’t trying to follow trends but strive to champion new work by some great talents that you might not have yet heard of. In May for instance, as part of the larger Brighton arts festival, we are working with a selection of local makers, whose practice and mediums are diverse but are united by their craft, skill, passion and great design. It will give people a chance to see what happens around them and buy locally made items to dress both themselves and their homes.
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
We are all about undiscovered gems here. It is flattering when big brands approach us to be stocked, but we are far more interested in being someone’s first stockist. It gives artists a platform to showcase their talent and test the market and we get to shout about great new design. Some of our initial designers when we first started out, such as Kitty McCall, Tom Pigeon and One We Made Earlier are all growing to become established design ‘brands’ in themselves now.
What’s been a consistent best seller?
As already mentioned, we’ve stocked the work of Kitty McCall since we first opened and seen her work grow in popularity and become hugely coveted. ‘Ofili’ and ‘Oshie’ are two prints (pictured above) she’s recently created exclusively for us at Unlimited, and it’s gratifying to see them fly out the door. As graphics designers ourselves, prints are where it all began, so it’s great they are still at the heart of our business.
Does the store have its own line?
We sell a number of prints designed by Unlimited studio, and collaborate with our artists to offer exclusive pieces. Our Brighton Fontmap which we created to mark the start of our shop, has been a consistently popular piece. We have also recently created a collection of 40 limited edition prints with 40 handpicked creatives in collaboration with our studio (called FOURPLAY) – an exciting and massive project for us to undertake! We’ve had great success with our exclusive One We Made Earlier NINA necklace, I am Acrylic pieces and our own wrapping paper designs by Esther Cox. We love the potential that collaboration on Unlimited exclusives can bring – as we see this as a positive push for both parties involved.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
Loads! This year we’ve made a conscious decision to step up the number of events we’ll be hosting at our shop and gallery, and line up a really strong exhibition showcase. Up next is a textile and print showcase by Sunny Todd Prints. It’ll be bursting with bright primary colors and dynamic shapes. There’ll also be the odd exclusive in there too. After that we have a number of showcases, live draws, workshops and three big print based exhibitions from the Summer onwards, culminating in an exciting shop makeover mural taking place by the massive talent otherwise known as Supermundane!
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
Haha. Lots! It’s one of the great benefits of running your own store!… Seriously though, it is a reflection of the belief we have in our products and designers. When sourcing and curating the store, the question always at the forefront is ‘would I give it house room?’ It’s a personal curation, and I like to believe that’s its strength. We want to encourage our customers to make purchases they love too. It really helps when you can say I’ve got that in my front room, or even better when you’re wearing the necklace they are looking at. It’s not about buying into a brand name or trend, it is all about discovering and nurturing your own style.
I have abstract prints and textiles by Kitty McCall leading the look of my living room, Virginie Morgand’s ‘La Piscine’ prints brightening up a bedroom and Supermundane prints adding a monochrome edge to our hallway. I also have a cherished little collection of our wooden trees by Forge on our mantelpiece! Jewelry, well, my personal collection is definitely growing! I love wearing our Nina necklace by One We Made Earlier, a regular daily statement piece at work!… I also have some lovely silver pieces from our local talents RockCakes and Silver Spur.
What’s next for you and your store?
Last year we took Unlimited exhibitions on the road a fair bit. For now it is all about our Brighton shop and gallery. It’s going to be a packed year of live drawing, printing events, workshops and showcases. We are really excited to be hosting exhibitions by Steven Wilson, Supermundane and Fatherless. Check our website’s What’s on page for details and updates, or by following us on instagram @unlimitedshopuk you’ll get a live feed of what we get up to!
Visit Unlimited at 10 Church Street, Brighton BN1 1US or online at unlimitedshop.co.uk.