Bunka is 20 years old this month (hooray!), and to celebrate, we grabbed five minutes with our founder, Ayshin Demirci, the brains behind the brand:
How and when did Bunka open?
Believe it or not, I launched Bunka back in 2003 when I was studying Fashion Management at university. I lived local to Forest Hill, and while North London was blooming with independent businesses, there was very little south of the river. The Overground was coming, the area was being regenerated, and there was a big gap in the market for something new and fresh.
I was 25 at the time, and had always wanted to run my own business, so when I saw the Princes Trust were offering funding for people under 26, I grabbed the opportunity. It was a lot to do on my own, but I took a leap of faith and just went for it!
What did the store look like 20 years ago?
When we first opened our doors, we only sold women’s fashions - casual outfits and clubwear. The store was really popular right from the start, and over time, we evolved with the area, adding women’s accessories, gifts and jewellery, before introducing homewares, men’s and kids’ fashions, and becoming one of the first stores to sell Jellycat outside of Harvey Nichols. Our second store, in Beckenham, opened in 2017; and our third, in Bromley, in 2021.
How did you get through the hard times?
The credit crunch in 2008 was tough, but we’ve always listened to our customers, constantly adapting and updating what we offer to give them what they want, and this helped us survive. Then, during Covid, we took Bunka online, opening our webstore in June 2020. Our gift service – where we wrap gifts and can even write in customer’s cards before sending them straight to the recipient – provided a personal touch, which people loved. We still offer it now.
How do you keep things fresh and exciting?
I’ve always loved seeking out brilliant new products and fashions, meeting new makers and visiting international trade fairs to find beautiful, unique things you wouldn’t see on the high street. I’m passionate about supporting independent and small designers too, seeking out sustainable products with a story, and anything made in the UK.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love building relationships – both with my amazing team of 22 women, and with our fantastic customers. Our stores have a fun, relaxed happy vibe, and it’s really important to me that our staff are friendly and helpful. We enjoy getting to know our customers, listening to what they need, giving advice and making Bunka a fun place to shop.
What’s next for Bunka?
Our website has just relaunched, with more products than ever before, to make it even easier for customers to shop online. We’re also busy building our Tik-Tok shop, to enable a new generation to discover Bunka. Oh, and we’re also going to be offering some great discounts to help you celebrate the anniversary with us. Watch this space!