Artocracy Founder, Nadia Sirianni

Pictured L-R : Nadia Sirianni - sheep-ish, Siobhan McCuskey - Bask, Casey Farrell - Louie and the Fox

Artocracy is a beautiful shared retail space in Brunswick run by local Melbourne artists and makers, which I am very thrilled that Duckling in Space is a part of.

Today I chat with Nadia Sirianni, the founder of Artocracy and resident maker of the gorgeous handmade knitwear label, sheep-ish.

Tell us about your beautiful knitwear label sheep-ish

I'm a self taught knitwear designer and maker. In 2012 I moved away from my career in international development and decided to pursue a more creative path. Under my label 'sheep-ish' I create knitwear and accessories using domestic knitting machines, and Australian merino wool. My designs are simple and classic, and are designed to suit all body types. I create pieces that I would love to wear, and hope that others will love them too. I am also very happy to be supporting the Australian wool industry.

What is Artocracy all about?

Artocracy is a shared retail space, run by a small number of local artists and makers. Everything we sell is designed and made in Melbourne by the makers who run the shop. Customers know when they buy from us they are buying locally made products and supporting small local creative businesses.

What inspired you to open Artocracy?

I was keen to establish a retail space to sell my knitwear, but there are considerable constraints to setting up a store, particularly when you design and manufacture your product yourself.  I founded Artocracy in 2019 with the aim of creating a retail space for my work, as well as giving other micro businesses creating artistic or creative products in Melbourne a space to sell their products and grow their businesses. As well as collaborating to cover expenses, each business owner offers a few days’ time to manage the shop each month. For a small outlay, businesses showcase their products seven days a week, taking home 100% of sales, and we all still have time to design and create our products.

What makes Artocracy different to other apparel and giftware stores?

While there are other shared handmade or design stores around, our approach is slightly different. In carefully handpicking our participating makers, we aim to minimise product overlap, to ensure all makers have the best opportunity to make strong sales. We provide makers with enough space to showcase usually their entire range, rather than just a small space for a limited product selection. Unlike most other shared retail concepts, which sell many brands and take a commission on sales, our small business owners actually help to manage the retail space and keep 100% of revenue.

What are some of the benefits for artists and makers being part of Artocracy?

Our makers set their own prices and take home 100% of sales. For a fairly minimal amount of time running the shop each month, their products are on sale every day of the week. Our makers also get to engage with customers and learn about retail management, key aspects for product based businesses to successfully grow their brands. It's a great opportunity particularly for start-ups and other small businesses of creative local products to test whether retail is for them. 

What are some of the challenges the store has faced since the pandemic?

It was sad having to temporarily close the shop but we felt it was the right thing to do. We missed our one year anniversary unfortunately! But the experience was positive in that it pushed me along with the website. Previously our website was fairly minimal. During the shutdown I created an online store, so now we can serve interstate customers too, or locals can shop online if that's more convenient. It was always on the cards, but the pandemic brought it forward. I now see the online store as a key component of our strategy to grow Artocracy and all our participating small businesses.

How can our community help to support local businesses, artists and makers during this time? 

I think we all know it's so important now more than ever to support our local shops, cafes and other small businesses. It's tough out there, and we need to support small business and our local creatives if we want them to stick around and keep creating their beautiful art, products or services for their community. Even if all you can afford to buy is 'just a card' or 'just a coffee' it all helps. We've had a great few weeks since reopening and are really encouraged by the support from our local Brunswick community.

Visit Artocracy at 156 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria, 3056