Stronger together – local makers converge at Fortitude Valley’s Forge Forward
There’s a movement brewing in the heart of The Valley, one that is championing local endeavour and uniting makers under a banner of mutual support and empowerment. This wellspring of energy can be found on Ann Street, where more and more shop spaces are becoming occupied by co-working studios, multidisciplinary hubs and boutique retail. Forge Forward is the newest name in the game – a forward-thinking incubator of upcoming, emerging and established retail and art that is all about growth, guidance and creativity.
To get a sense of Forge Forward and its origins, it helps to know a bit about its founder Amy Crow. With a resume boasting experience as a make-up artist, salon owner, graphic designer, illustrator, photographer, streetwear maker and business guru, it’s safe to say that Amy is a veritable Renaissance polymath and creative force. After hosting various pop-up events for her streetwear label Future = Female throughout 2017 and 2018, Amy snagged a short-term lease for a space on Winn Lane to show off her wares properly. With only t-shirts in her collection at that stage, Amy quickly discovered that she had an excess of room and not enough product to fill it, so she called upon her creative friends and fellow makers to help turn the space into a shop specialising in locally made wares. Gradually, Amy’s retail collective platform expanded to a larger tenancy in California Lane, this time having implemented a rent-share system that allowed makers to put their product forward in a more financially sustainable manner. Not long after, Amy approached Fortitude Valley laneway king Arthur Apostolos about securing one of the sizeable spaces facing Ann Street, selling him on the idea Forge Forward – a multidisciplinary hub that encompassed retail elements, a gallery space and room for hands-on workshops with the aim of providing local artisans a leg up when it comes to visibility.
Located along the same strip that boasts like-minded retail and maker spaces UnCommon Store and Practice Studio, Forge Forward is a crisp and minimalist boutique that boasts room for various wares, artwork and even a salon at the rear. Every month, Amy curates the space based on a unique theme (the February theme, for instance, is ‘alt-love’), putting together a selection of makers and artists, giving them an opportunity to sell and test the waters without lock-in contracts or sales expectations. Forge Forward offers three tiers for its retail partners – a window-front feature-artist space (this month occupied by ceramicist Bonnie Hislop), wall space for showcase artists dabbling in traditional media and the retail floor, where modular furnishings allow for versatile visual-merchandising positioning for ten artisans. Makers and artists can also host workshops or exhibitions on site throughout their showcase period, while monthly launch events and panel discussions will introduce shoppers to the new theme and incoming designers. In addition to showcasing the goods, Amy is employing her business-strategy skills to provide guidance to designers that are only just starting to take their product to the public – everything from brand identity to promotion.
Forge Forward is now open in Fortitude Valley. For opening hours and contact details, head to the Stumble Guide.