Kierra Campbell, Co-founder, Poodle & Blonde, shares the story of how she joined forces with her co-founder Whinnie Williams when their first meeting took an unexpected turn, and how they both continue to follow their instinct as their fun-loving brand outgrows the ‘start-up’ label and explores global opportunities.
Tell us about your design background and history of the brand?
I have worked within interiors for almost 10 years now, which sounds crazy! I come from a family of house-proud Caribbean women so keeping a beautiful home has always been something I am passionate about. I started out as a visual merchandiser working for the likes of Marks and Spencer and Selfridges, then went into buying and after that consultancy. After working years within interiors in positions that didn’t make me feel good I created my own position as a freelance buying and production consultant where I supported startup interior brands, which is how I met Whinnie. We met in a restaurant in Shoreditch to discuss supporting her with her business idea, and my plan was always to freelance and save enough to start my own interior brand. When I heard Whinnies ideas it sounded exactly like what I wanted to build, she had the creativity and I had the know-how. So then and there we decided we should do this together. It was really risky as we knew nothing about each other but our energy was really similar and I think we felt quite drawn to each other – we have been best friends since.
What does Poodle & Blonde represent as a design company?
As a brand we represent fun-loving and sustainable luxury. We’re super professional and take the business seriously but we always have fun along the way – smiling makes your skin glow. Also, as an image of business owners I think myself and Whinnie are a rare pair in the industry, we get so many wonderful messages from people saying they love to see it.
How do you continue to be innovative in the industry?
We trust our instinct and react to things we are drawn to. Inspiration often comes through fashion or music and even if no one in interiors is doing it or people don’t see the vision as long as we both believe in it we push forward. We are also pretty savage during the design process; if all the weeks’ of hard work is complete, and we don’t love it, we will drop it. We don’t like to sell anything we wouldn’t want to buy ourselves. This particularly has worked a treat because whilst myself and Whinnie are a perfect example of ‘The Poodle and Blonde customer” however our personal styles are quite different which results in every collection offering something for all.
What has been your most successful milestone to date?
There have been so many and we work so hard that sometimes we forget to stop and just soak it in, but I have to say that the day we finally settled into our new studio was an extremely humbling and happy moment. Whinnie and I can’t believe that we randomly met in a cafe after meeting on Instagram, we both said what we wanted to create, and less than two years later we are surrounded by exactly what we dreamed of. Working between our homes always made it feel more like something we were trying to do, but having the studio feels like wow, we’re actually doing this!
How do you manage working globally?
We have just been stocked in Japan with the amazing Walpa and are really excited to see what opportunities that brings. As a whole expanding globally has been something I have always been careful with, currently we are in the process of looking for someone to manage our trade business to allow us to expand further. It’s all a learning curve from now, we are just stepping out of being considered a start-up brand so there are lots of new things we are juggling. Luckily I’m a nerd that loves to learn.
What is the biggest challenge for Poodle & Blonde in the global luxury interiors brand and design industry?
It can be tricky to be a luxury brand whilst still offering affordable options. This is something we are always brainstorming to ensure our customers have these options. We’re both from working class backgrounds and would never want the brand to become something that our past selves could never enjoy. Our collaboration with Haden was a great way to offer something rare and beautiful at an affordable price. We look forward to working with them again.
How do you tackle issues surrounding sustainability in the interior design industry in your own studio and processes?
When we launched, conversation around sustainability and best practices was easily accessible so this was really helpful to allow us to start how we plan to go on. We manufacture slow and small, try to avoid wastage at all levels even during our product development stages. We adjust how much we produce based on sales history, which also helps us avoid over ordering. I’m anti-hoarding, which my partner hates, but for P&B it has helped make sure we are only bringing in what I know we can get out.
What are you focused on for 2021?
2021 is the year of love. Whinnie is going to be getting married, and I would love to have another baby. So of course our plans for the business have to fit around our personal goals. That being said the focus is to set the foundations to allow us both to have more options. We’ll be hiring more staff, expanding and up-leveling all round. Work on our next collection has already begun and, this may be our best one yet
What does the company aspire to look like in 20 years time?
I would love to answer this question but knowing us, we will morph into whatever we are drawn to. We’re big believers in everything happening for a reason and are risk takers so right now the possibilities are endless. We are both very into property and investing so I can see this being something we do together as part of the brand, but exactly what that involves, I have no idea yet.