Thursday, 25 August 2011

Moroccan Mayhem

It has been a busy week here at Andara HQ and it is still only Thursday! 

This week we flew out to Morocco to meet with our suppliers to see how work is progressing on all our new Christmas stock.  As always, Marrakech was hot, dusty and completely exhausting. 

Love it ALL
I first visited Marrakech when I was 19 and fell in love with the place.  When I told Sophie about the incredibly chaotic maze of souks, filled with everything you could ever wish to buy, she agreed that Marrakech would be a fantastic place to go and get some ideas and inspiration for Andara.  We were so impressed by what we saw and the artisans that we met that we decided to investigate Morocco further.  We have now found some great guys to work with and are slowly building up a business relationship with them.  Not as easy as that may sound as one of our guys doesn't use the internet so contacting him is always tricky!  It is however, so important for us to work directly with the artisans to make sure that all our products are not only hand crafted, but hand crafted beautifully, that it is worth all the struggle and frustration.

Sophie looking out over Place Jamaa el Fna 
This has just been our third trip to Morocco and we had assumed that by now, our buying trips would be an easier, smoother and less frustrating experience.  Not a chance!  August, we now know, is a difficult month to try and do business.  First of all it is really hot.  We were lucky as the temperature stayed in the high 30’s whilst we were out there but a week ago it had been 46 degrees.  Secondly, this year Ramadan falls over the whole month of August so 3 weeks in, our suppliers were tired and hungry.  Not ideal when trying to negotiate prices and quantities.

Sadly, since our last trip, Marrakech has suffered a terrorist attack when a bomb went off in one of the most popular restaurants in their main square - a huge meeting place for tourists and local alike.  Re-building hasn’t started yet so we were able to see the damage caused by the bomb.  It was horrible to see the destruction but luckily all our suppliers were unaffected and life now goes on around it.  One stall holder is even using the scaffolding holding up the remains of the building as hanging rails to display his wares.  

Working Hard!
You’ll all be glad to hear that overall, the trip was a success and you can look forward to some great new products at Andara this Christmas.  Now we just have to worry about getting them to the UK in time!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


We were told, more than once, that we were mad to try and set up our own business in the throws of a worldwide economic crisis.  Perhaps those pessimists had a point but almost one year on and we are still here- just!  There have been definite highs, more lows than we care to dwell on and lots of laughs (some tears) to get to where we are today.  And so as we approach our first major landmark, we have decided to start a blog.  I’m not even sure why! Maybe, because we think it might help to put things in perspective, perhaps, because in a strange way it is rather therapeutic.  Either way, I hope that there are others out there, going through similar experiences to us who might, just might, be interested in what we have to say! 

So here goes…

Who are ‘we'?  Well, we are Sophie and Tiff.  We are both 26, live in London and are trying desperately to make a success of our small business, Andara.  We have known each other for years, have both recently got married, and are both fascinated by all things ‘Interior Design’.  

Rather glamorously, we came up with the idea of ANDARA in India!  At that point, we didn’t have a name for our company, or indeed a clear idea of what we were going to sell but we knew what we wanted to stand for.  We wanted to create a brand that appealed to our own age group and that wasn’t cripplingly expensive.  We wanted it to be chic and stylish but at the same time, show off the handiwork of skilled artisans all over the world.  Hhhmmm- where to even start!!

Back in London, I remember us staring at our mood board feeling incredibly depressed.  We had such big ideas and absolutely no clue as to how to even start going about making them a reality.  In India this had all seemed so possible and yet sitting around Sophie’s kitchen table in London, we couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry- it all seemed so completely unobtainable.  It would have been easy at that point to give up, but if truth be told, neither of us had a job- Sophie had been made redundant and I had recently moved back to the UK from India.  We were bored, broke and had nothing to lose.

We launched our first collection 7 months later which you can see on our website,  As it turns out, that was the easy part.  The next hurdle of actually keeping ourselves afloat is far more daunting.  So join us as we muddle our way through the highs and lows of running our own business and enjoy, what I hope will be, a visual feast of photos and design ideas.