In today’s Chisholm & Gamon blog we feature popular world décor business – Alafia Gallery at 121 Ormond Road, Elwood. A go-to for giftwares or to find the ‘special piece’ to complete a living zone, Alafia Gallery has enjoyed great support from the community. We interviewed Alafia’s Lorna to find out more about the business, and to learn about some of her style influences.
1. What makes Alafia Gallery unique?
I think I make it unique. Just as no two people are the same, I feel my business reflects my own hunter/gatherer tastes, personality and style. Maintaining an individual shop in an ever-increasing world of duplication and fashion trends is a challenge. This is what (in my opinion) makes Alafia special.
2. What are your unique skills when it comes to small business building?
My understanding of the Alafia Gallery clientele and their requirements. I work very hard to understand who my customer is – a demographic that is often changing. Elwood and the Bay area are unique in the city of Melbourne, and Alafia feels very content and at home here.
3. How did your lightbulb moment in creating the Alafia Gallery come about?
The idea to start Alafia Gallery came to me whilst on a night flight from Paris to Hong Kong. I remember it very well. I had purchased some great African artwork which was not available in Australia. Whilst the majority slept, I crunched numbers on a napkin. I knew what I wanted to do, with who and where and couldn’t wait to get off the plane. I was living in Elwood at the time and the Ormond Road shopping strip was on my doorstep.
4. What is your earliest memory of the business?
Seventeen years ago, sitting on the floor of Alafia’s first shop the night before we opened – exhausted. Without realising it, we had created what is now commonly referred to as “a pop up shop” and we had created it in the space of about a week. Torsten from Chisholm & Gamon had offered us an old derelict shop which was waiting on permits to become a cafe. We were given the shop for 4 months over the summer of 1997 – just the right amount of time to see if we had a viable idea and could give up our day jobs.
5. What is your favourite home decorating trend for Winter 2013?
I’m loving the resurgence of mixing the very old with new. Retro, vintage, handmade - it’s all back together with the infusion of ethnic colour. Take an old hand carved piece of furniture and add a modern lamp or sculpture to it or add a handstitched cushion on the couch.
6. What is your best tip for choosing working partners?
The sensible answer would be to look for someone who can complement your business strengths and weaknesses. In truth, I think the best working partnerships for longevity and success come by surrounding yourself with people who are like minded in values and share a similar sense of place.
7. Whose home typifies stylish interiors in your opinion?
Take me into almost any Moroccan riad and I would be overwhelmed, excited and in love with the decor. This typifies an interior style which I feel very at ease with. I love the interior courtyard with terracotta pots, handpainted tiles and lantern lighting.
8. Who would you like to invite to dinner?
I would like to invite to dinner someone who creates or directs film like Jane Campion. Film is one of my favourite past-times and I love the visual creation of a room or scene. Jane Campion has the ability to make you truly ‘be there’.
9. What is something unexpected that has come from your work at Alafia?
The generosity of spirit shown by my customers in so many ways. Whether through loyalty, friendship, encouragement or just sharing their personal stories – happy or sad – their openness is something I had not anticipated. There is a true sense of community in a village when you can run down the street and so many people know your name.