Honest Goods by Hardworking People
Situated at the foot of the South Downs National Park in the historic county town of Lewes, you will find Freight H.H.G, a lifestyle shop selling British made homewares and clothes. I met with co-founder Adele to talk about straight-talking business, honest products and her love of well-made, stylish and durable goods.
It's almost Mother's Day, so we thought we'd focus on a mother-daughter team doing great things with determined focus and professionalism. I met co-founder Adele in the Depot a local cinema and arts hub, where she has just cycled from Brighton before starting a busy day in her shop.
Adele is reluctant to class Freight as a mother-daughter business as it conjures up a twee, cutesy, lifestyle business, but Freight is anything but. Established in 2014, Freight is a thriving online and bricks and mortar business harnessing the pair's specific and complementary skills and talents.
Adele is a busy and dynamic woman. As well as designing products for Freight, she is a trained architect and also runs a successful events management company started when she worked for Bill from the original Bill's Restaurant in Lewes. Her mother Helene has a background in independent retail, bringing items like rustic brushes and twine to the high street well before such items items became on-trend.
"We didn't go into business because we were mother and daughter. We complement each other as we have a clear understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses. I'm the driving force, and mum is the editor. She pushes for simplification, and she has a great eye, a vision. Because we are family, we can be upfront and straight with each other, no usual bullshit that you may find in a regular company. We don't pussyfoot around. Luckily our shop manager Olga is straight-talking too. We are a tight unit of three. We work in an emotionally open and honest environment."
Images by Sarah Weal
The shop is a domestic setting, paired back but warm and welcoming, full of texture, scent and a woodburning stove. They have a functioning kitchen which not only showcases their goods in situ but is a place to make their lunch and cups of coffee.
"We often work from 8-8, and it has sort of become our home from home, it' not a showroom. The shop has multiple functions."
Far from being a vanity project run by women in floral aprons, selling perfumed tat and irrelevant fancies, Freight is the product of two highly skilled women, and their passion runs in the family. They are successful in business, but this is not their priority.
"We are a family of designers and architects. We are designers first and entrepreneurs second. For us, it's quality first and commercial second."
In fact, it was her Grandma inspired both Adele and Helene to appreciate the importance of crafts, of beautifully made, durable items. She was a member of the Crafts Council in Covent Garden, London and represented glassblowers and potters alongside curating exhibitions and discovering new talents. One such craftsman was the late Richard Batterham, a potter whose work is now showing in a retrospective exhibition at the V & A.
"She collected brushes and brooms, flora, fauna and object d'art, curating them around her home. She inspired my mum from an early age -her love of quality, provenance and durability. Some of the clothes she passes to me, for example, pieces by Margaret Howell that are over 50 years old and are still wearable. It's a testament to their durability"
Image by Sarah Weal
Design and a good eye certainly run in the family, but where did the idea for the business come from and the name Freight H.H G?
"My mum was set on getting her HGV License and driving a lorry full of goods across Europe as a pop-up shop. Freight on the move. H.H.G - is the term on shipping containers for household goods."
Fortunately for Lewes, Freight set up home in the UK, but not before a British road trip to track down the best British materials and homegrown manufacturers to produce their goods.
"We started with pottery, so drove to Stoke on Trent. We looked up a model maker in the Yellow Pages, and when we found him, he was based in a terraced house! He answered the door covered in plaster powder - he gave us our first contacts, which we spent the day visiting. We still use them today. We knew what we wanted, and we still sell those pieces.
Freight has great respect for raw materials, and they always lead the design process. They strive to work with British Businesses reducing air miles and helping to keep homegrown crafts skills and techniques alive.
"We are always looking at working with companies from the UK - the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers. We work with 10-12 manufacturing businesses, many of whom are families. Our potters are a son and son in law team. Our knitters are husband and wife. We work with the same people to make sure that we are consistent, we have a reliable image, and we have already established our classics."
Their business ethos and practices go hand in hand with sustainability. Adele and Helene design and make items to last and do not sell products dictated by seasonal and marketing trends. They stock goods that are relevant all year round, making them a more sustainable business, an antidote to fast fashion and throwaway culture.
Images by Sarah Weal
What's next for Freight?
Being a local, I've watched Freight grow slowly and organically, listening to the needs of their customers and striving to produce good quality items. This year will see more well-considered products entering the store, from pewter candlesticks to a so'wester hat, from outdoor plants to a signature scent; all designed and made with attention to detail. As Adele rightly says, "It's a labour of love."
As we finish our coffee, we notice that the place has filled with people meeting, tapping the keys, and creatives busy at work. Adele believes that Lewes is the perfect spot for Freight. She was born and bred here and has seen it change, becoming a thoroughfare for culture, a place where people appreciate craft and design.
It's certainly a place to visit if you like independent shops and local businesses. If you'd like to visit Freight and want to make a day of it, here are some of Adele's top tips for a Lewesian day out.
We're surrounded by the South Downs National Park, so why not try travelling to Lewes by foot or bike.
Before hitting the shops, visit Pestle & Mortar for homemade healing broth. This independent restaurant is run by a family team and serves an incredible vegan laska.
Lewes is a great place to shop the independents, including an intriguing array of antique shops and flea markets.
If you are visiting Lewes, be sure to visit one of the taprooms popping up in the industrial quarter. I like to walk along the river to Beak Brewery, just next door, you can also find some great coffee at Pharmacie Coffee Roasters.
I'd like to thank Adele for taking some time out of her busy day to chat with me. To shop Freight VISIT