WHAT WE LOVE: A gorgeous neutral palette, weathered textures and mix of vintage and ethnic goods, handcrafted furniture and accessories. Plus i gigi general store has a lovely cafe, Chard, to enjoy a coffee, cake or small plate.
WHAT WE WANT: A Vintage Milking Stool, Jute Baskets, A Life Less Ordinary, an interior inspiration book by the founders, Alex and Zoe, and a Happiness Kit.
WHERE: A beautiful historic shopfront in the coastal town of Hove, East Sussex.
WHO: Alex Legendre and Zoe Ellison, designers, stylists, shopkeepers, and authors of “A Life Less Ordinary” a book celebrating the story of i gigi general store and the partners friendship.
We have been admiring i gigi general store from afar for ages, so we are delighted to finally feature this delightful lifestyle shop, one of The Shopkeepers Best Shops 2018. Co-founder, Alex Legendre, shares her inspirations, favorite shops, and shopkeeping tips.
What year was i gigi general store established? The original shop opened 20 years ago and the i gigi general store four years later.
Who designed the i gigi general store? The shops designs haven’t changed much structurally but obviously the interior is constantly evolving with the passing seasons and stock. Zoe has to be credited with the fantastic staircase she found in Copenhagen! It literally makes i gigi general store look stunning.
Why did you call the shop i gigi general store? Zoe, my business partner’s mother came up with “igigi”. The word has many connotations from ancient gods to mythic people.
What makes your shop unique? I hope ‘WE’ make it unique – it’s a massive part of our lives we are always here planning, making, learning, talking, and sharing. The shops are spaces where we can be creative and share the things that bring us pleasure, curating, designing and making but also advising people on our look and how to achieve what has become the “igigi” style for themselves. We truly hope that the shops are unique and stay true to our aesthetic while all around us seems to move with fashions. We aim to sell items that aren’t necessarily fashionable but are long-lasting, lifetime purchases that people will pass on to friends, family or love forever.
Who are your customers? Our customers are everyone – they really are a mix – we once had a young boy aged 12 buying a 300 year old bowl from Vietnam along side a great granny buying antique African beads.
How has the internet impacted your business? We are still working on this! I have restructured our business to incorporate our online sales and now wholesale our own brand of furniture. But honestly it’s not the same love or energy although we really try hard to express our atmosphere, get our look and feel across with our images online. So people actually see what they really will receive when they open our parcel. Mostly people call the shop after seeing something we post on Instagram.
Alex Legendre and Zoe Ellison, the shopkeepers at i gigi general store
Before we were shopkeepers, we…. had very different backgrounds and lives prior to the shops. But we both love things and both love to assemble beautiful things – clothes and homewares, creating something comes naturally.
Who inspires you? Warp & Weft our friends’ shop in Hastings, egg in London and Opium, London. We had a wonderful store called ‘Jill Palmer’ in Brighton which was amazing she had a great eye. Frida, Coco all the classic vintage icons.
What inspires you? Nature, history, romance, antiques.
What motivated you to open a shop? Not getting the experience we wanted when shopping – not buying the things we loved.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? EVERYTHING – but really the demands on your time or your family and the running of a business behind the scenes – the stuff nobody ever tells you!
Your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Freedom to be creative – make mistakes and make them right.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Make sure you absolutely LOVE what you do or sell.
What is your perfect day off? I’d either go to Hastings and get out of Hove & Brighton. Or simply stay in my little village Shoreham-by-sea 15 minutes drive away from the shop. I’d walk on the beach with my dog and have lunch at Ginger & Dobbs a lovely local spot opposite a stunning ancient church. From here you can walk inland to Steyning or Bramber all really old lovely villages.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“The million dollar question! In reality I hope that people will soon realize that they can buy quality with integrity and feel they are supporting shopkeepers and makers around the world directly. Stop supporting cheap fashion brands and stop wasting clothes fabrics furniture and lives. Genuinely love the things you buy – know where they are made – how they are made – understand the processes involved and appreciate that work every time you use or wear something. Support local or support something that needs support. Recycle, reclaim, restore. Gratitude and knowledge – spread the word to the shoppers!”
31A Western Road, Hove