New Retail Platform Celebrates The Stories Behind Its Products

With the last year seeing a rise in the onset of digital lifestyle platforms, one start-up has launched with the purpose of celebrating the UK’s most inspiring and innovative independent brands. Hibana, which translates in Japanese to spark, went live in February this year and offers products in a range of lifestyle categories from food and drink to fashion, home accessories and beauty.

Founded by friends Nick O’Quinn and Peter Dakin, Hibana was conceived during lockdown in 2020. Once lockdown had started the duo realised how many relied on the convenience of larger organisations, with smaller indie brands being harder to find. With that in mind, coupled with a desire to encourage conscious consumerism, the pair embarked on their journey. Funnily enough, lockdown actually enabled us to build this business. It was the catalyst that brought us together,” recalls O’Quinn. “It inspired the idea to support smaller independent businesses, and it gave us lots of time and space for us to go ahead and build it. While the magic of modern technology allowed us to do all this sitting in two different cities – endless hours spent on video calls is still no match for the energy you get from chatting face to face!”

The platform, which now has a curated selection of just over 60 brands, pays close attention to sourcing companies who share an ethos of well considered, responsible design. Brands such as Hiut Denim Co., SIRPLUS and One Nine Eight Five all represent a mindset of conscious creativity, working to small batch production levels and sustainably sourcing materials. In working with these brands, Hibana hopes to make it easier for consumers to find them and, not only be able to browse designs from the brands directly, but to discover the stories behind each one and what makes them unique.

This art of storytelling is what sets Hibana apart in the ever-adapting world of online retail. Bringing a more experiential approach to their offering, they hope that visitors will find value in connecting with these stories and come away feeling as though they have interacted with the brands as they would have in-person. With the retail world changing as we emerge into a post-pandemic world, this desire for connection is extremely important within digital spaces. “While most online retail is built on convenience and cost, Hibana seeks to shine a light on the inspiring stories and passionate people behind the things you buy,” O’Quinn continues. “We put the brand in the spotlight, using storytelling to enable curious and conscious shoppers to discover, and feel connected to, the inspiring independent brands who are building a better world.”

Looking ahead, O’Quinn and Dakin are excited about the evolution of the platform. Spending their time sourcing these special stories, they hope to expand the depth of design within the platform while building up their own community and following. “For brands,” states Dakin, “we don’t want to just be another ‘stockist’. This is about building a community of the most innovative and purposeful independent businesses to create a powerful collective that can shape the future of shopping.”

This passion for discovery, and a love for independent creativity, is what drives the duo forward. And, as we look back on how retail has changed dramatically, Hibana presents a vision which heralds a new future for the sector. A future which brings back the connection between the designer, maker or founder directly with the customer. From a consumer viewpoint, it facilities a fulfilling shopping experience, allowing visitors to invest with more meaning and purpose behind each purchase they make. “We want Hibana to be so much more than an ‘online shop’,” Dakin concludes. “This is about creating a discovery-led shopping experience that is more personalised and curated, and about connecting businesses together in a powerful community that provides them with the support, tools and insight they need to fuel their growth.”

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