By Jeanine Ibrahim
Like many entrepreneurs, Ilsa Parry began her career with a few failures and a lot of hard work. But the British product designer eventually found a springboard to success in an atypical way: She won a reality TV show.
Parry instantly went from struggling craftswoman to high-profile designer, nabbing many accolades along the way for her innovation in recycled art and original designs.
“I passionately believe that creativity adds value to life,” she says. “I think we forget a lot of the fun that can be had from having a child-like mindset.”
This flexible and creative mindset is an asset in her artistic process, as much as it is in her business dealings. She crafts found materials into cool products and continues to create one project after another: She’s built a successful brand and design studio under her name; she’s creatively consulted the staffs of global companies like Unilever, Sony and BoConcept; and she’s founded and operates two shops.
Design fuels all Parry does. She even dreams up ideas in her sleep.
“I get very frustrated by systems that don't work and expectations that are placed on people and society,” she says. “I call myself a multi-dimensional design deviant because I’m just into everything.”
Some of the cleverly-designed products for sale on Parry's website, MYNE.boutique. (Photos courtesy of Ilsa Parry)
It’s all happened since famed French designer Philippe Starck crowned her the winner of his BBC show, “Design for Life." "The Apprentice"-style show gave 12 young designers the chance to compete for a six-month internship at Starck’s agency in Paris.
“It's allowed me access to people who have bigger connections and bigger networks, so it's helped to spread the word about what I'm doing,” says Parry.
A custom URL for a bespoke business
The form of Parry's latest successful venture, MYNE boutique, has been shaped, in part, thanks her flexibility and her becoming an early adopter of innovative website naming.
In 2014, Parry created an online retail business offering gift items with sustainable and design-led principles. She called the site "MYNE," choosing the name because the shop’s products -- such as lighting, kitchen accessories, artwork prints and more -- could be customized to a customer’s requests. When she went to register the domain name, however, she found that both the “dot-com” (.com) and “dot-co-dot-uk” (.co.uk) versions of the website name were taken.
That’s when she learned about “dot-boutique” (.boutique) as one of the countless, descriptive words currently available for use as a domain extension. She immediately grabbed it, solidifying the website’s home at www.MYNE.boutique.
“I was just really shocked by how many new domains were out there. It was quite a lot of choice,” says Parry. Finding ‘dot-boutique’ was a chance moment that became a perfect match for the shop, she says. The domain has even helped to mold the brand into what it is today.
Initially, the store was just called “MYNE,” but thanks to the catchy URL, people now know it as "MYNE boutique,” says Parry. Because people think of the brand as a boutique, it influences some of the decisions she makes about the direction of the business.
“I think having ‘boutique’ at the end of the domain gives people an impression of what they’re going to expect, that they’re not dealing with a huge company here. They’re dealing with a small team of about three or four people and they are getting that personal experience,” she says.
MYNE boutique sells her line of “Ilsa Parry” craft-based custom works, items from her wholesale shop (Rethinkthings), and it also sells the works of 50 other designers. “Some are small design brands. Some are individual crafters, makers,” she says. “Others are quite well know, like Sass & Belle or Slam Design.”
The idea behind the boutique is that any item a buyer purchases can be tweaked to their own preferences, and that no matter the brand’s size, it must be “design-led” and create meaningful products.
“If a customer sees a product they like but would prefer it in a different color or different wood, she says, “We can get in touch with the creative and get it done bespoke.”
The name MYNE is meant to invoke customization and is a play on the word “mine.” Parry choose to spell it differently to stand out, and also to deviate from the mining towns for which England is often known, which she says can “conjure up a grubby image.”
She also changed the spelling slightly to make the boutique’s name more memorable.
Adding a physical boutique
Originally, Perry didn’t intend to have a physical shop. Then she stumbled across a vacant, affordable unit inside the Bluecoat Chambers -- the oldest building in Liverpool’s city center -- and found it and to have the same boutique-y feel of the website. So she grabbed it.
The brick-and-mortar shop now generates 50 percent of the boutique’s sales; the website brings in 30 percent; and the remaining 20 percent comes from craft and market pop-up shops.
The MYNE boutique in Liverpool is a vibrant menagerie of creative products. (Photo courtesy of Isla Parry)
The physical store has been such a success that Parry was initially thinking about getting rid of her current, smaller store to move into a bigger location in Liverpool. But once again, the domain influenced her decision, and the direction of the business.
Since the brand is now known as “MYNE boutique,” and the word boutique gives customers the feeling that the shop is in a small space with an intimate experience, “it makes more sense to keep the stores small and move to different cities,” she says. “Like hidden gem sort of thing.”
Parry has found that the website name says it all; so much so, that it gives the brand identity before people even visit the shop. The way people interpret a URL impacts the message that you should give them, she says.
To that point, Parry is still refining the look and feel of her website so that it better reflects her message. “We’re trying to develop the website to give it more of a boutique-y feel about it, graphically, but it’s a work in progress.”
She designs the site herself, and is constantly working to build her businesses. For her, it all goes back to “finding new ways of doing things,” she says, “and the way you see the world.”
To learn more about this business and shop its colorful assortment of bespoke products, visit www.MYNE.boutique.