Warm, Brave, Inspiring - Kate Hulett from Kate & Abel
When I first meet Perth creative Kate Hulett she gives me a big warm hug and I instantly feel like we’re friends. You know how there are some people who walk into a room and you immediately get swept up in their energy and enthusiasm? That is Kate. She is bubbly and welcoming and I immediately feel uplifted and energised.
We sit at bar stools in her store at Many 2.0 and talk for over an hour. It is honest and open. Conversations about the world today and how much technology and social media have changed it and about her first exhibition at Venery, Perth. She tells me “people ask how I did it, and I tell them that I just picked up a paintbrush and started painting!” She says that like her, people just need to take a small step and give things a go instead of being afraid or overwhelmed by their their own self doubts.
She tells me her story about how she started making hats with her partner, Matt, when they were living in London. “I think, at that stage, we both had a thing for hats. So after a year of talking about it, we finally decided to make a few and try selling them at London markets. So, we bought some hats, took them apart and put them back together with interesting trims and so on, and people loved them.” After a short while on the market scene, a buyer from Topshop visited them saying that she had been following their venture into hat making and that Topshop wanted to stock them. Pretty soon after they were contacted by Anthropologie and Harvey Nichols. They ended up relaunching the Harvey Nichols hat department. “I couldn’t believe it!” Kate enthuses.
After thirteen years living in the UK, three of those growing their business in London, Kate felt it was time to come home so they packed up and moved back to Perth. I ask Kate whether that was a difficult thing to do and she says it just felt like it was the right choice so it wasn’t too hard.
Once back in Perth it wasn’t long until they found a space for their first store - the old Myer building in Fremantle. “Matt was always the one good at talking, he was great with people. So usually, he would be the person chatting to the customers…..We were a good team.” But life took a turn nearly two years ago when Matt disappeared whilst on a trip to Rottnest Island. They never found him. “Suddenly it was just me. I’d been so used to him always being there, we made all our decisions together. I still struggle with that.” Through all this Kate has continued to run their business as well as involve herself in other new ventures. Her strength, perseverance and her ability to get on with life astounds me. “I keep myself busy with the shop, running the MANY Projects, and a few other side-projects which keeps me moving forwards and growing personally”
“This store” she says “is like my second home. It’s comfortable for me….Customers come in and we sit here at this counter and we chat. We get to know each other and have great conversations.” This is how Kate is making a difference. She wants people to be part of their community. To know that there are places like Many 2.0 where people can visit and talk to the store owners who are also the makers of the products sold, they can lean on each other for support, they can come and buy things that have been specially crafted by people who have a passion for what they do. “It’s us” she says, “who will ensure shops and creative spaces like MANY stay open. I encourage all West Australians to drop in and experience this for themselves - and more generally to buy from small shops, visit art galleries, go to gigs… If people change their mindset on how and where they spend their money, then more and more of these interesting venues will open, instead of soulless shopping malls.”
Kate wants to encourage other people to step out of their comfort zones and give things a go. “I want them to feel like they can do it too. Give it a go, if it messes up, you'll make a change and fix it. Life is too short to worry about everything too much. As I get older, I find myself telling the younger people I work with not to worry so much. Time will pass no matter what, the world will keep turning, no one really cares too much.... just be brave.”
If you want to visit Kate, drop into Many 2.0 in Fremantle or visit www.kateandabel.com