Putting the fun into functional, Mustard is known and loved for its colourful statement storage. As the brand marks its fifth year in business, we catch up with cofounder and creative director Becca Stern
How did the idea for Mustard come about?
My sister Jess and I had talked about starting a business for years, and we joke that Mustard began as an excuse for us to spend more time together. There’s more than a little truth to that! Jess came to visit me in Australia when I had just had my second son, and we went for a walk along the beach where we talked about our long-held dream of starting a business together. We each felt that our careers weren’t taking us in the right direction, but it wasn’t until we started talking about my collection of vintage lockers that the idea really solidified. There was something about them that I just loved, they’re so nostalgic. But they weren’t very practical on the inside. I knew we could come up with something that would honour their retro look and feel, while making them more useful.
What were you both doing before?
I had run my own small jewellery business, House of Bec, so I had experience in the creative side of things as well as the small business side. Jess was working as a fashion buyer for large corporations, so she had the operations and production knowledge. Our different skill sets are still one of our greatest strengths now, and we both feel that the reason our business works so well is because we each really stay in our own lanes. If we had to collaborate on every facet of the business, it would make it really challenging, especially because we’re on opposite time zones (I’m in Newcastle, Australia, while Jess is in London.) Knowing that we each trust each other innately and always have each other’s best interests at heart has been such a strong foundation for us to build from.
How would you sum up your design ethos?
Colourful, industrial-inspired, pretty and practical. We always aim for the beauty in simplicity, with attention to detail and personality shining through. We believe in making products that are timeless and transcend the seasonality of fast furniture, we want our products to look as good in 50 years as they would have 50 years ago.
Where do you find colour inspiration for the lockers?
Colour is a huge part of the Mustard brand, so we spend a lot of time comparing swatches! We take our inspiration from lots of places, but the most important thing is that we consider our lockers a family. The colours all need to work together and feel cohesive as a collection. Rather than chasing trends, we try to think about what our customers need, and what might be missing from our rainbow. Our Ocean colour, for example, is a lovely soft pale blue, we worked really hard to create a custom shade that would look beautiful in a baby’s nursery but equally wouldn’t feel out of place in a living space or a cool office. All our colours have to work for a range of contexts.
Can you tell me about the role of sustainability at Mustard?
Sustainability has been really important to us from day one of Mustard. Our lockers are designed to last a long time. They’re high-quality steel, created to work in all kinds of spaces so that you can use and reuse them. One locker might be used as a wardrobe or a pantry, office storage, a kids’ toy cupboard – the options are endless! Part of our love for retro-inspired shapes and silhouettes is also the fact that they’re timeless designs. They won’t date in a year or two, so you know you’re investing in a quality piece that’s going to last and last. We’ve made some small wins in terms of sustainability across the business but one of the big projects we’re working on is improving our packaging while balancing the need to protect the products in transit. Over the years we’ve made positive steps forward but there’s always more to do and things to tackle to be the best business we can be all round.
And your partnership with Beam?
Our partnership with Beam is one of our proudest achievements. We donate £5 from every locker purchase in the UK to Beam, who support people experiencing homelessness to achieve their goals. We’ve donated over £150,000 to Beam since 2019 and it’s a real pinch-me moment to see our lockers doing good in the real world! It’s incredible to think that our little walk on the beach all those years ago has had such a ripple effect for so many people.
How can statement storage transform a home?
Absolutely every home needs storage, but so often it’s a kind of grey, soulless necessity. Storage can be totally overlooked as a design feature, adding a colourful locker to your space is like adding punctuation to a room. Our products bring a sense of nostalgia and playfulness and they’re total conversation starters! We all know the feeling of calm and serenity you have when your home is clean and tidy, that’s exactly how we want our customers to feel when they put everything away in its own spot and lock the door.
What’s next for the brand?
Mustard has been through a period of pretty rapid growth, and we now have a team of over 30 employees. It’s really exciting because it means we now have the capacity to dream even bigger. We see Mustard’s future being so much more than lockers, so stay tuned for new products… and there’s always room for another colour in the Mustard rainbow!