Hear me roar “Independents Day!”

Helen Martin, editor of Lionheart magazine

Our new columnist, Helen Martin, wants an alternative approach to Black Friday – focusing on independent designer-makers instead.

“Consumers are expected to spend billions on Black Friday deals. Forget cheap TVs and tablets though, and support designer-makers rather than big business. I promise it’ll bring you joy and make you the purring cat that got the (brandy) cream.

From cobbled streets and twisting lanes dotted with steamed-up cafes to business districts cocooned by glassy high rises, and bustling shopping centres complete with waving elves – Christmas is coming! Cranes and ladders have risen in the sky, for gloved hands to attach (slightly precarious) flashing lights, the knitwear is out, and the mince pies are warm. There’s no escaping those baubles and twinkling lights, so join me for some festive cheer – independent style.

Image from @hollytucker

Chances are, if you’re a Mollie reader, you’ve spent months prepping for Christmas already; designing, stitching, knitting and generally being a golden elf. I aim to be like this and have all the enthusiasm, but less of the practical skills and organisation. It’s worth getting organised to shop independent though. I’m dedicated to small businesses and want to support them, especially at this time of year. I’d rather my pounds went in their pockets for a decent Christmas pudding, and I’m all about the story behind making. I love to find out about makers’ journeys.

I’ve also made the happy discovery that independents usually wrap items beautifully, and I’m a sucker for such care and attention to detail. Think tissue, ribbon, twine, and pretty postcards. Maybe even a little beauty tester, discount code or personal thank you. Who doesn’t love a unique product with a story, made to last and packaged like a dream? It replaces the feeling of festive commercial gorging with a sense of blissful calm.

Online shopping

In contrast, Black Friday is the opposite of zen. Stampeding humans in supermarkets, nervy employees furiously page refreshing at work, tears, tantrums, a full basket, a held breath, a small moment of jubilation. All for that precious discount. It’s wild and it can carry you with it, helplessly adding tiny cashmere jumpers and garlic crushers to online baskets, because there’s 20% off. You do not need that garlic crusher (message to self). Take a step back and pop to your favourite independent designer-maker or retailer instead. They’ll be cheering with each and every purchase, no matter how small.

You can go about buying from independents in a variety of ways, from markets to bricks and mortar shops to online. The important thing is that something pulls you in, you believe in what you’re buying, and who you’re buying from. I’ve had my eye on a few products on Insta for gifts, and a few treats for myself too (a copper spray can, beret and pretty notepad). I’ve been saving everything to my profile and building a list, so I can revisit products after a breather and see if they’ve still got that important pull. If you’re still saying, ‘Ooh yes, I love this!’ a few days later then you know what to do!

Just a Card Indie Friday

Top tips for shopping independent tomorrow

  • Compile your shopping list and have a look for ideas on Insta, Pinterest and in your favourite makers’ online shops now, so you’re ready for possible discounts tomorrow. Bear in mind that not all independents can afford to offer discounts though. Don’t let full priced items hold you back – get them if you love them.
  • No time to shop for gems? Folksy has a great little product guide.
  • Check out recommendations on blogs. Your favourite blogger has probably already compiled a gift list with some makers that aren’t on your radar. They may even have a collaboration that could mean an extra special treat, with an exclusive code.
  • Think about getting a loved one a class or workshop as a gift, which may be discounted tomorrow. It’ll make a thoughtful and lasting gift for someone to experience in the new year.
  • Stick to what you can afford. We all overspend sometimes, especially at Christmas, but try to stay within budget. You’ll be thankful when you can buy good coffee this winter or hop on that Eurostar to Paris in spring.
  • If you’re feeling a bit stretched, think small and meaningful. How about a beautifully illustrated card? Check out Just a Card, a campaign encouraging people to buy from designers-makers, even if it’s just a card. Every purchase, no matter how big or small, makes a difference and helps keep businesses ticking along.
  • Have a look at Trouva, an online collection of independent boutiques. Last year through Trouva I found ARTHOUSE Meath, which has a range of stunning designs created by adults living with complex epilepsy, learning and physical difficulties.
  • Look out for hashtags that promote small designer-makers on social media. Just A Card has launched #JACIndieFriday and Holly & Co has #campaignshopsmall. Join the independents party!

Each purchase from an independent creates and spreads a little joy. Support independents for you, for the economy, for the pleasure of unwrapping something unique, and for the hopes and dreams of designer-makers across the land. They’re not just Christmas elves, but creators 365 days a year, nurturing and developing skills that enhance the lives of so many. The love that goes into handmade is really pretty special.

Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash

Oh, and before I go, here’s a bit of winter inspiration:

Craft: Now we’re battening down the hatches, explore a new craft – whether that’s macramé, sewing or pottery, start something new.

Go outside: Go for some blustery walks to get your vitamin D.

Watch it: The Joan Didion documentary on Netflix.

Get cooking: Be inspired by Claire Thomson’s The Art of the Larder.

Relax: It can get hectic during the festive season so find time for some peace and relaxation. The positivity from this will enhance all parts of your life.”


Helen MartinAbout Helen

Helen is the founder of Lionheart, an independent lifestyle publication. Each issue features inspiring, thoughtful and passionately created words, photography and illustration. From interviews, style and interiors, to poetry and stories, it’s a roaring 96 pages of print. Find it on Facebook, Twitter and Insta.




First image by Holly & Co. Third photo by rawpixel.com and fifth photo by Karly Santiago, both from Unsplash.