In our (totally biased) opinion, Fremantle is home to Perth’s most interesting retail experiences. With Christmas just around the corner, we thought it was the ideal time to start sharing our favourites with you. For obvious reasons, we kick off the series chatting to Jayden Weston, owner and chief curator at Compendium Design Store!

What made you decide to open a design store in Fremantle?

Ten years ago now (!!) – right in the GFC – we were juggling a couple of little ideas, doing the rounds around the Perth arts and crafts fairs with our handmade wares, selling a little bit online etc. I pretty was keen to move from full time graphic design work to my own business, whatever that might be. Something ideally that still allowed me to design a little bit but also to explore other stuff, and learn about business.

One day a chance encounter with a local fashion designer on High Street resulted in us renting the back of her shop for a six month popup selling some of the goods we were making. We kind of didn’t have enough stock to fill it and make it look nice, so we bought in some stock from some brands we admired which we’d seen online, and some of our favourites from around town. We had some greeting cards, cardboard taxidermy, textiles and a couple of leather wallets from another brand just starting up, Bellroy. 

At the end of the six months we had the opportunity to move next door into the shop Kartique were using (thanks Mel and Irene!). One thing led to another and that turned into Compendium. So you could say a little bit by accident and a little bit by sheer determination (stubbornness) to not have to have an actual job and full control over my schedule. For some reason I thought working way more hours for way less money was a better option, ha!

You’ve spent a fair bit of time travelling between the US and Freo the past couple of years, while running your shop. Has this experience influenced the way in which you operate and the kind of products you stock?

I’ve definitely been lucky and had the opportunity to visit heaps and heaps of places, and I am always schlepping around high streets, retail fairs and markets looking for cool people doing cool stuff. I do get to take advantage from my trips and get products from the US, having met and made friends with some great designers and little brands, especially from the Pacific Northwest Seattle/Portland area. (Portland is basically just a giant Freo – sans beach of course). Spotting trends and how other little shops do things here and there has been the best bit, and I think is helpful for keeping me inspired, motivated and keeping the shop fresh. 

From travelling I’ve got to witness how independent retail and hospo businesses manage to maintain a unique and local feel, a strong sense of place. I love that about a lot of small brick and mortar businesses in the States and I try to learn from that. Freo is amazing, and Compendium should be a part of it, reflect it and celebrate it.

It’s a little sad to see the selection of little shops depleting more and more, and with the pandemic seeing how the ones who are surviving are adapting with a major shift online and to other initiatives like contactless and curbside pickup is really interesting. At the end of the day it’s kind of humbling to be reminded how good we have it here, with a relatively thriving high street shopping culture, where online still compliments a genuine and interesting real life shopping experience – where the market doesn’t necessarily expect something delivered for free instantly by an Amazon drone.

At DF, we use the phrase ‘design matters’ in our by-line and we’re always muttering it wherever we go. What does the phrase ‘design matters’ mean to you?

It’s the difference between half-assing it and doing something worthwhile. Doing the homework, and the planning. Something that will last. Something that’s spot on. It’s problem solving – a bit like buying the perfect gift. See what I did there?

Design is many things but these days I find it informing heaps of what I do. How can I make this process easier? How can this thing we do in the shop be more efficient? What the heck are we going to put in the window? It’s everywhere and having a process is a bit like being armed to make good decisions. 

Three quick questions….

What’s your favourite product in your shop?

At the moment it would be the new Freo Goods Co range. It’s been really nice to make our own stuff again, or overseeing it I should say – we’re working with some designers way more talented than me and I’m really excited where it’s going and the Freo inspired work they’re coming up with. 

If money were no object, what design object would you buy yourself for Christmas?

An airfare. To anywhere.

Tell us your favourite thing about Fremantle?

Definitely the West End. That tight-knit, village-like atmosphere on a sunny brisk morning, when everyone is chirpy and in a good mood, waving hello to all the neighbors as I get my coffee and there’s a procession of regulars popping in to see what’s new or just to say g’day.

Visit Compendium Design Store at 49A High Street, Fremantle (next to Cafe 55 and just up the road from New Edition!)

Emma Brain

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