Inside Earl of East’s grassroots model philosophy

From pouring candles on their kitchen worktop to an unwavering belief in physical retail, Earl of East founders Paul Firmin and Niko Dafkos tell CR how they built a thriving lifestyle business

Fourteen years ago, Paul Firmin started his first job in London, moved to Hackney, and landed himself a nickname: the Earl of East London. “It was an unbeaten path back then,” he jokes, “And I was always trying to persuade my friends from my job to come and spend the weekend with me in Hackney.”

What started as a bit of fun became the beginnings of a burgeoning brand when Firmin met his partner Niko Dafkos. Together they spent weekends trawling craft markets and new shops, restaurants and bars, and started to get a hankering for their own creative outlet. And they’d already spied the gap they wanted to tap into.

“We felt there was a real movement towards food, and a lot of independent street food places starting up,” explains Firmin. “But there wasn’t much going on outside of your usual ceramics and jewellers in terms of craft. We have a lot of friends in California and spend a lot of time going back and forth there, and we felt there was this big movement of craft happening on Instagram, but also in the real world over there that hadn’t quite yet made it to London. It was craft, but in a lifestyle way.”

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