TWO of Newcastle's greatest champions of the local creative economy - High Tea with Mrs Woo and Studio Melt - will trade under one roof come spring.
The two businesses, respectively helmed by siblings Rowena, Angela and Jules Foong and Ange Hailey, began discussing uniting forces some months ago.
After close to 20 years on Darby Street, High Tea with Mrs Woo will relocate to Studio Melt in the Hunter Street mall in September. It will also establish a fabric factory, Fabrica, at its Islington business, The Fernery.
Ms Hailey said it felt "a little bit like Christmas" to welcome the Foong sisters into her eight-year-old business.
"The girls are some of the most creative human beings on the planet; the ideas and passion they have after running operations for nearly 20 years is nothing short of astonishing," she said.
Ms Hailey said the businesses' vision overlapped with their small-scale, studio-based design through to sustainable and ethical manufacturing.
"What they would describe as Slow Fashion very closely aligns with the practices of the jewellers, ceramicists and artists we work closely with," she said, adding she hopes the collaboration will allow her to make more jewellery.
Angela Foong said High Tea's lease was up at the end of 2021 and the siblings had thought hard about the purpose and role of retail in an increasingly online world.
"We've been asking, 'Are retail stores viable and relevant in the future?' We feel yes but in a different way, in a sharing economy way," she said. "Co-retailing may be the way forward for a lot of us creatives - to be able to provide the sanctuary of experience for our customers and a relevant, sustainable marketplace into the future."
Pointing to local co-operatives Merry Go Round and Maker Store Studio, Rowena Foong said co-retailing offered many benefits.
"It no doubt has its challenges, much like starting a new relationship ... but sharing rent and overhead costs, fittings and fixtures, values and ideas, products and merchandise, cross-promoting each other may be a sustainable way for all parties to survive and thrive," she said.
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