People

Rebels of retail

Find it, style it, sell it. Alex Fulton turns her keen eye for interiors to retail in rural New Zealand.

Stepping inside Alex Fulton’s design store is not unlike walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. One minute you’re deep in the heart of Marlborough wine country, and the next you’re surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colour – shelves stacked with custom printed cushions, African baskets attached to the walls and tables topped with trinkets from a whole host of creative talents sourced from all corners of the globe.

That this is a very unusual shop may be down to the fact that Alex never set out to be a shopkeeper. The idea was sparked when a space became available at The Vines Village – an artisan hub run by her husband Jeff that sits on the road into Blenheim. “We were looking at dividing a larger space into two for a business that wanted a smaller presence. After putting a wall in, the resulting empty space was the perfect size for a design store. Next thing you know, we’re mocking up concept sketches for the Alex Fulton Design store!”

With recently revamped branding and a website for her primary pursuit as an interior designer, it made perfect sense for the store to become another branch of the business. And, as with many things Alex turns her hand to, after the plan was hatched she cast away the ‘what ifs’ and took to the task with calculated optimism.

As it turns out, her instincts were on point. The locals were hungry for some colour. Everyone from farmers in the Marlborough Sounds, to vineyard owners and wedding-gift purchasers visiting from out of town are discovering the AFD store. “Even though its a farming culture here, people have sophisticated taste,” says Alex. “There are also a lot of young people choosing to set themselves up here for the lifestyle.

“I love that people come in when they’ve just moved to the area, and it’s like they let out a sign of relief, knowing that we offer a slice of big city style in the country. People are so connected now via the internet and social media, and I love that we can create a physical link to the outside design world.”

In keeping with Alex’s aptitude for crisp colour combos and patterns in her interior design work, the store houses all manner of homeware and accessories that also share a playful sophistication. “I’m all about the organised chaos,” laughs Alex. “My goal is to push people to think about things differently, and have fun decorating their home.”

As a physical home of the AFD aesthetic, the store is a curatorial movable feast. “My goal is to handpick people I connect with from around the world, stock their products,
and give them a little launch pad here in New Zealand,” says Alex. “I’ve got collaborations in the pipeline with some of the creatives I’ve been connecting with too. These days it doesn’t matter so much where you’re physically based, as it’s so easy to tap into your network online.” And, with that in mind, look out for the online version of the AFD store, which will be popping up soon too.

Words Alice Lines
Photography Jim Tannock