Sitting on a wooden bench in a basement kitchen while coffee slowly boils in the percolator, François Clerc, a 39-year-old product designer from Le Mans, France, tells me how he thrives to support local business and pull the world away from the Ikea lifestyle with his new business venture, Made in Brockley.
Made in Brockley is a website that was established by Clerc in October 2015. It sells handmade items such as bags, art, and food from eight different Brockley residents, including Clerc. The venture is growing; on its first day online there were 700 views. Clerc says: “We should have 15 contributors by next week and I am going to leave it open so we can have as many people selling as possible.
It was totally by chance that Clerc started living in Brockley. Six years ago he settled in the area when house hunting with his wife, a documentary filmmaker from Leeds. On the Made in Brockley website Clerc says: “For me Brockley is a little nook in London. With my garden, my chickens and my wood-burning stove it feels like the countryside in the heart of one of the most exciting capitals in the world. It’s relaxed but also very lively with a great mix of people. The whole world is living on my doorstep. I love it!”
“The idea for Made in Brockley came from when I was working in Taiwan,” Clerc says. “I was invited in to someone’s house, which is rare in Taiwan. What surprised me was that the entire flat was Ikea. The duvet cover was the same as my brother’s, in Paris.”
He tells me of his disappointment at discovering that the furniture and décor of people’s homes all over the world are largely similar, because this is what pushed him into making his website for entrepreneurs. “I started to think about buying, making, and selling locally when I was producing for companies that were buying from China, making somewhere else, and then selling globally on Amazon, so I tried to start making things more locally,” he says.
Before working sporadically for companies in Taiwan such as Volvo and Jack Daniels, Clerc worked for the French Embassy in Kazakhstan to co-ordinate a scenography workshop, which involved the art of creating performance environments.
“The project in Kazakhstan was very local and we would work with local craftsmen, I really loved it,” he says. “I see two benefits from local produce; the first is that it’s better for the environment because you are not shipping material from China. It is also better for local business and helps people in your community get jobs.”
Made in Brockley is Clerc’s first local endeavour in a career that has seen him work internationally and he’s throwing himself into it. Every Saturday he goes out on his bike and brings the products to each individual customer in Brockley and New Cross. “It will be fun to deliver the products because I’ve already met the traders, but now I get to meet the customers,” he smiles.