Slow Made Studios is the Queensland collective out to prove retail isn’t dead

Words by Hannah Cole

If you’re familiar with the latest rag trade statistics, it might seem that local retail is facing imminent death. But I have news for you: a phoenix is rising from the recent ashes. Meet Slow Made Studios, the Gold Coast-based design collective set on transforming the way we view traditional shopping.

Founded by Degoey Plant designer, Alexandria De Goey Omundsen, and stonemason, Ray Cook, Slow Made Studios aims to reframe the way we shop. While the focus on local, handmade labels that uphold sustainable values is nothing new per se, the intent, design and operations are.

This handmade ethos sits at the very core of the collective. “Everything inside the store is created from scratch; every single element all made by hand,” states Alexandria. Utilising Ray’s skill in upcycling pieces of marble, picture a fit-out lined with his solid but sleek creations.

Keeping it local is of the utmost importance. The locals-only representation means that four of the designers (including Alexandria, Ray, Demi of Poemé candles and Fraser of Coastal Copper Designs) will be those working the shop-floor. Through this, there is an opportunity to forge relationships between the designer, the maker, the creator, and the customer.

In effect, the team involved are intent on closing the buying loop, cutting out the middle man and building meaningful connections. This idea is a far cry from the typical online shopping experience – avoiding all human contact and mindlessly clicking “add to cart”.

As Alexandria notes, “The store allows the designers to have a physical presence, where the buyer can touch, feel, smell, and try on the product.” The proximity of the buyer to designer also introduces the option for the space to host workshops later down the line, allowing the maker to share their craft with an intimate group.

Importantly, this tight-knit loop created by a shared space and ethos gives local designers the chance to receive feedback first-hand. Wholesaling may provide much-needed stats on sales, but a conversation regarding particular pieces is priceless. The discussion aids smaller designers in understanding their customer needs and, importantly, meeting the demand.

Each maker has been personally selected either by Alexandria or Ray. After two years of working on her label, Alexandria has tremendous respect for brands operating in the same way and sharing similar values. “I know the craftsmanship that goes behind every single piece they’ve created and the amount of work that goes into it,” she says. So, the pair reached out to other makers they had built connections with to showcase a high-quality range of local design and talent.

These relationships have culminated in a long list of designers with a presence at Slow Made Studios. The offering is undoubtedly diverse, making it difficult to fit it into one specific retail mould. As Alexandria says, “[Slow Made Studios] is not based on fashion, it’s not based on homewares, and it’s not based on artwork. It’s not a gallery space. It’s everything all in one spot.” Alongside the in-house designers, local makers include Par Moi (accessories and clothing), Subtle Bodies (incense), Dunkle Authentic (cosmetics), and Hunchmark (ceramics).

A curation of this size would typically result in segregated areas for each brand, cultivating a market-like feel. But, as Alexandria put it, “It’s the cliché.” Instead, the works of all designers are interspersed with one another, positioning complementing pieces side by side.

For the shopper, it’s a more seamless experience as we are exposed to one cohesive range of products. And for the smaller designer, this offers an opportunity to gain exposure and share the spotlight with the labels that are more well-known.

To Alexandria, the emphasis on sustainable, ethical and handmade is obvious: “It’s the way of the future, baby!” Amid news of a burning Amazon and dismissive politicians, maybe a positive future is on our doorstep. It’s about working as a collective and partnering together to change the direction of retail.

25 McLean St, Coolangatta


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