In the first of a new series of interviews with creative professionals we talk to Joh Rindom and Louisa Jones, the ladies behind Shop Dutty in Stokes Croft, about how they got into their lines of work. We also borrowed a few of their amazing pieces and did a photo-shoot around Bristol… we hope you like the results.

The Dutty journey began in 2003 when Louisa started a club night under the name Dutty Girl, this lead to a clothing store within St Nicholas Market and by 2008 the Shop Dutty we now know on Cheltenham Road had opened. Dutty has fast become a Bristol institution; epitomising the Bristol style with its signature mix of modern and vintage. The shop contains a blend of street wear, chunky jewellery and quirky accessories as well as a wide range of eclectic reworked vintage; showcasing not only Joh and Louisa’s considerable design talent but also championing a variety of fashion forward independent local brands.

Both Joh and Louisa are graduates and I was interested to know how they felt that this helped them get to where they are today. Though they didn’t know each other at the time, when they were studying they each chose art-based subjects over fashion as they decided that it was less restricting to their needs.

Louisa studied Contemporary Arts at Nottingham Trent, this appealed to her as the diverse course included art, performance and music (which she is still heavily involved in with Dutty Girl’s current incarnation as an all-female music collective for whom she is a DJ). After leaving university Louisa worked in the television industry and says her course related to that more directly but the theory she learnt on her degree, such as the understanding of Post-Modernism, will always inform what she does.

Joh starting sewing at a young age and took a pattern-cutting course after her foundation before going on to UWE to study Fine Art.

“My Fine Arts course taught me so much, especially about practical work, creative writing, deadlines, translating your inspirations, critique and objectivity. Above all it reinforced something in me – a desire to become my own boss. Learning that a creative skill can become a way of life, and I use many of the skills I learned, both practically and mentally, on a daily basis and especially in my working life.”

After asking what about the highlight of their careers so far they both agreed that the most exciting time for them was right now. “The launch of our new website has been really exciting and we’re enjoying the maintaining of it, keeping it fresh and updated. It has been a real labour of love, and something we feel we can be really proud of. And it’s all proving worth it as it’s getting a lot of love!” They’ve also been getting lots of love from some big names in music, such as Emile Sandé and Annie Mac, who have been wearing their distinctive Dutty branded t-shirts.

So what would advice would they give to students wanting to start their own business? “We have worked with a number of student work experiencers and interns over the years, and we generally have the same advice for them. We tell them not to wait around for the perfect idea of what you want to do with your life. We speak to them about how important it is to take full advantage of the facilities, equipment and support they have at uni, and to simply take action! You learn through doing and trying things out – and so what if you make mistakes, at least you learn what not to do for the future. If you have hopes of starting a fashion brand, then why not start that process now? Uni is the perfect place to start – instant network, support and creative surroundings.”

For fashion brands Louisa suggests getting your hands dirty and really researching your target market.

“Small quantities, DIY, quick turnaround items will give you an idea of whether your idea is going to sell, so just take steps and at some point when you have the confidence behind it, then you can take bigger risks.”

Once you know which direction you wish to take, Joh believes strongly in the importance of writing a business plan. “A business plan is one of the most important documents you will ever write, and it should be for YOU, and YOUR business. We took about 3 months to write ours and it stills stands true to this day. Many of our dreams and goals have come true since writing ours, but all of that may not have happened, had they not been on paper in the first place!”

Visit Shop Dutty’s new website at shopdutty.com or pop into the shop on Cheltenham Road.

Words by Dulcie Horn, photography by Merryn Sheldon, modelling and styling by Jahdine Milosevic.