Lucy Bryant learns about Anna Schmidt’s Scandinavian and Japanese influences for ALSO Home, ahead of their new showroom launch.
Nine years ago, Anna Schmidt launched ALSO Home just as the credit crunch hit and the housing market crashed.
“I just had to take a great big gulp and think, I either stop or I carry on...so I carried on,” remembers Anna.
“Those first couple of years were particularly tough.”
Originally training as a textiles designer at Winchester School of Art, Anna went on to design bed linen for a company in London.
From there, she moved to another company as design director and was ‘working, designing and creating all sorts of different textile products for the major retailers’.
“It was really through the experience from those two companies, that I got the bug” reveals Anna.
“From then I really wanted to set up my own online brand.”
Her work in design and product sourcing contributed to the idea of starting her own business, but her ‘biggest inspiration’ hit when Anna took her first trip to Vietnam.
“From the moment I stepped off the plane it got completely under my skin,” smiles Anna.
“That really was, and continues to be, the main place that inspires me. I don’t know what it is, it’s just a place that I love”.
Anna spent a lot of time ‘travelling across to the Far East seeing beautiful products’, which she couldn’t utilise at her current role as they weren’t textiles based.
“I saw that there was so much more scope with other products that these suppliers and artisans were able to create,” she says.
“I began to see more and more that there was this opportunity to design and produce exciting products through them”.
This love for travel and the inspiration it brings is something Anna maintains as she sources for ALSO Home.
She travels to either China, India or Vietnam about four times a year, with additional trips in Europe to work with the factories.
Having lived in Scandinavia and noticed the Japanese design influence in Vietnam, Anna has combined these strong elements of the East and European influences is a style which ALSO Home have combined to call in a style called ‘Scandanese’.
“Scandinavian and Japanese aspects are ourmy key inspirations,” she explains.
“We’ve pulled the two together and we’re focusing on developing this as our handwriting.”
One of the aspects Anna takes from the Scandinavian products is the colour palette, using tones which are ‘quite neutral, very soft and muted’.
To maintain the personality, Anna ‘loves to add a pop of colour’ to compliment this look.
“We’ll always do the greys but we’ll have a fun lime green, coral or denim blue” reassures Anna.
“We’re not following what everyone else is doing in colour, we’re carving out our own look.”
ALSO Home started out as an online retailer, with ‘bed-linen as its heritage’.
Selling online and through a small catalogue allowed Anna ‘to start from the kitchen table’.
At the beginning, this was a she says a ‘much more attainable way of getting products in front of people’ without having all of the overheads, especially seeing the financial state of the time.
“We started doing bespoke products for retailers in the UK, which really helped carry us through those early years”, says Anna.
This got them to the point where they could ‘really focus on what [they’re] doing’, developing the collection to include aprons, napkins and crockery.
After a few successful years of selling online to the general public, Anna decided 18 months ago that it was time to start selling the range wholesale.
“We supply around 70-80 shops around the UK and that’s growing all the time,” she reveals.
“A year ago we only had three shops”.
The success of this move has spurred Anna and her team to take ALSO Home to the next step and open its very own showroom.
“We finally have a space here in Rudgwick where people can see our entire collection,” exclaims Anna, “something which we are very excited to share with both the general public and our trade customers.”
The showroom will allow people to see ‘how [they] think the range should be put together’, giving a much more hands-on, physical approach.
“You can show it to a point online, but there’s nothing like the way we would style it or put the colours together,” she says.
As ALSO Home takes its next step in expanding the business, I wondered whether there were any further plans, to which Anna adds that she’d ‘love to start adding furniture pieces into the range’.
“I think we’ll be able to try products with the showroom” says Anna.
“We can put pieces in there, see people’s reactions and go from there to tailor make the range”.
It sounds as if you’ll soon be able to get a ‘little coffee cup right through to a gorgeous hand-quilted bedspread’ and maybe even a Scandanese inspired sofa.
To view the collection in full, visit alsohome.com or pop to their Rudgwick showroom at The Old Brickworks.
This is featured in the April edition of etc Magazine, pick up your copy now.