For the first of what we intend to make a regular series* Jazz (aka Tim) and I went down to talk to Lucy and Erin who run the fashion label, and emporia-of-the-dark-side, Raven on Bunda Street. These pieces will involve pictures, a written article and a podcast of the interview for those wanting to hear the business owners in their own words (and in the background of this one you can clearly hear the music of Raven).
[Lucy on the left, Erin on the right. Yes, Lucy is a man]
Since 2002 Raven have been providing Canberra’s goths, emos and metalheads with all the black, leather, and metallic goodies that make them so distinctive on the streets of our town. To our surprise we learned that there is a “Manic Panic” range of hair care products and cosmetics, it turns out you can’t get that look at your average beauty salon. Since 2004 they’ve had their shop up the stairs next to Chairman Yip on Bunda Street.
If you look for it, it is signed from the street.
And once you pick up the trail the door isn’t too hard to find.
A series of signs leads the way up the stairs and along the corridor.
And then suddenly you’re in a place with a palette of scarlet, black, and purple.
There is also something of a morbid motif running through…
(yes, that’s the top end of a coffin)
Ok, maybe more than just a something…
I’m assured that the liquid in the bottles really is holy water, although holy to which denomination is unknown. Also why the vampiric goths want to have it at all is probably a question best left unasked.
Folk confused by the recent “emo” thing will be pleased to hear that Erin and Lucy are none too clear where it came from or what it means but are happy to sell to their enthusiastic teenage clientelle of emos.
Despite the formidable appearance of their young customers it is interesting to note that shoplifting isn’t an issue for them. The screaming spawn of satan are well mannered and make valued customers.
It isn’t all youth however, older customers abound looking for something special to wear for fancy dress. Corsetry, for example is a big part of the business.
Raven clothing is not only designed in Canberra by Erin, but also manufactured here by local seamstresses. How many other items of clothing can you say that about? Here are some examples of their outfits.
(Their model, bye the bye, is also one of the legendary Suicide Girls, I hadn’t realised they had members here in Canberra and that information might well keep me up at night)
When asked if there was anything local government could do differently to help their business, their most pressing issue was the filth of the litter piling up in Civic. Parking and loading zones are also a major issue.
Also local small business assistance doesn’t have a pigeonhole for something like Raven, making it very hard to get assistance.
In terms of the Federal Government burden it’s a real struggle for a small company, importing stock and exporting goods they’ve manufactured, to keep on top of the GST across a large range of products. A lot of legal and accountancy advice is needed for a small business trying to do the things Raven does.
When it comes to marketing Raven regularly advertise in BMA magazine as well as actively sponsoring live music events where potential customers throng for the right kind of music.
Music is a key part of lifestyle on the dark side and Raven seeks to provide all their needs that can’t be found anywhere else. Even wondered where those astonishing belt buckles came from?
How about the spiky collars?
Being able to work with things they love, supporting their own sub-culture, and spending the day listening to music they like balances the inconvenience of never being able to take a holiday. An added bonus is a clientelle that has no need for the shop to be open before 11am.
Erin regards their biggest risk as being cash flow management, something common to small retailers with large, expensive, inventories on hand. Keeping track of fashion is vitally important, something made harder by servicing a sub-culture where fashion gurus are few and far between. Raven sell a lot of stock on consignment for local artists and designers (their are nearly as many people producing art in this genre as buying it). While consignment might seem like a shopkeepers dream, the low markups and high administrative overheads make it less attractive than it appears at first glance.
(artwork on consignment awaiting the cashed up, but gloomy)
For those who didn’t already know about the shop, Erin thinks the best reason to check it out is for the unique items they stock that can’t be found off the rack anywhere else. Also gothic homewares have to be seen to believed.
So that’s Raven. Lucy and Erin might look a little different, but they’re designing and manufacturing right here in Canberra while servicing the needs of their community. And they’re an absolute delight to talk to.
The feed for podcatching the audio (~30mins) is http://the-riotact.com/wp-rss2.php?cat=46
* RiotACT receives no inducements or considerations to produce business profiles. In this case we approached Raven for the interview. If there’s a local business you’d like to know more about email email@example.com with their details and why you think they’re interesting.