Why UAL’s Not Just A Shop is not just a pretty space


LET’S get one thing straight right off the bat: Not Just a Shop looks like just a shop.
It’s a particularly colourful shop; brightening up a grey stretch of High Holborn with windows full of limited edition homewares, stationery, accessories, and jewellery from
some of London’s top designers, but still, just a shop.

The only sign that there might be more to the story is its location, a space adjacent to the entrance to University of the Arts London, which up until recently, served as a pop-up space for events and exhibiting students’ work.

This former life has served as the inspiration for Not Just a Shop, which is part enterprise for past students, part inspiration engine for the designers of tomorrow.

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inspiration: Not Just a Shop.  Photo by Yeshen Veneema

The collection of homewares, stationery, accessories and prints has been sourced exclusively from designers who studied at UAL’s six arts colleges, with all profits from the shop invested back into the university’s enterprise programme, which provides business advice and support to current students and recent graduates.

It’s a catalogue that reads like a who’s who of London’s design scene; from jewellery duo Harriet Vine and Rosie Wolfenden of Tatty Devine to illustrator and print maker Jacqueline Colley, and ceramicist Emma Alington to textile designer Kangan Arora.

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Ceramic vessels on display at Not Just A Shop. Photo by Yeshen Veneema

UAL’s enterprise practitioner Emma Thatcher hopes they will serve as an inspiration for students as they walk in and out of the university each day.

“We’re seeing more and more of our students finishing up their courses and wanting to set up their own companies,” she says.

“It can seem like such a huge jump from being a student to starting a successful business, so we’re hoping Not Just A Shop demystifies that pathway to success a little.”

But rather than just serving as an incredibly bright beacon of hope, Not Just A Shop has been engineered to collapse into itself, leaving a blank canvas for enterprise learning events covering everything from pricing through to crafting and delivering the perfect business pitch.

Emma says that most emerging designers find approaching retailers “incredibly intimidating”, and that while some UAL courses cover vocational skills like business plans and intellectual property, others are more focussed on the creative side.

She is hoping that monthly panel discussions with speakers drawn from the strong pool of alumnae will offer real insights into how students can turn their skills into a successful business.

“It’s incredibly important that students can be creative and push the boundaries but they also need that extra helping hand to sell their work, which is why the enterprise programme is such an important function.”

“We helped many of the designers showcasing their work here along their journey, and a lot of them are still really engaged and want to give something back.”

272 High Holborn WC1V 7EY