”From my angle, I see Cranium as a central hub for Coventry where everyone can come in. We have movies, live football and even FIFA tournaments. It brings people together. Our main aim is to provide the ultimate customer satisfaction.”
Over the years, Coventry has grown into a city full of budding fashion designers, musicians, event planners, artists, photographers and journalists; the list goes on and on all in the name of art and media. I managed to sit down with one of the co-founders and current store manager of Cranium Wear, Shinx who talked about how he has turned an Engineering Apprenticeship qualification into running an urban clothing store and more.
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from and what’s your educational background?
My name is Shingai Gerald Kamanga; a lot of people always wonder where ‘Shinx’ came from. When I used to do music, my older brother found a name so that’s how Shinx came about. I came to England from Zimbabwe in August 2003, aged 12 then went on to Sydney Stringer for secondary education. After I finished my GCSEs, I got a 4 year Engineering Apprenticeship where I also managed to get my BTEC qualifications (equivalent to 3 A Levels). During my last 2 years at the Apprenticeship, I got my HNC qualifications. Halfway during my apprenticeship I actually switched my whole apprenticeship from being a craft apprenticeship to working in the quality department which ended up being a full time position. I took any training opportunity I was given so when I graduated in 2011, I managed to acquire numerous qualifications including ‘ISO 14001‘ as well as ‘ISO 9001‘ which means I’m a qualified auditor. Because of these qualifications and everything I have learnt as an apprentice, I’m now incorporating these skills into running Cranium. Everything I’ve done is from an engineering point of view so Cranium is basically run like an engineering firm even if it’s a retail store.
How did you come to start Cranium?
After Taupe Boutique Salon was built (Victor and Lacy’s salon next to Cranium), during times when we were just relaxing, over-viewing the whole project and discussing what we could potentially do; I think it was in Jigsy’s house (Victor’s cousin) when the idea of a hat shop surfaced so over the weeks when we were still finishing Taupe that’s when the ideas of Cranium started to get a bit stronger and we decided what we could put next door with the space that was there and what we could actually do, money-wise. It was mainly just a brainstorm between the three of us. Cranium was actually founded in Jigsy’s kitchen as funny as it sounds (laughs). We were all just sat there during the building of Taupe just thinking of ideas what we could next, We both couldn’t see Victor being in a salon all day so this space came and that’s when i decided I was going to be part of the Cranium shop from a financial point of view because in Taupe I was just supporting Victor as a friend.
Give me a brief overview of your role in Cranium as an urban clothing store.
Besides being part owner of the shop, I’m the store manager and I basically manage everything within Cranium. From November 2012 when Cranium official opened till February of this year, Victor (also co-founder) was the one running the shop; locking and opening up etc. and he had assistance from other people as well. As Cranium was open and things started moving, that’s when I decided I’m going to pursue this venture and resign from where I was working. So from opening in November to February, I wasn’t involved in the running of the shop. I was only involved in coming in on a Saturday and meeting people so every Saturday was kind of my day. From start of March that’s when I took over and started running the store; ordering new stock, researching new brands, potential brands we might want in the shop, stock counts, data analysis among many other things are all entailed in my role as store manager.
You also have a barbershop in the basement. How do you attract business from it?
Mark, who had his own barbershop before near Sydney Stringer runs the barbershop and he’s been trimming in Coventry for about 15 years so as for me that’s the same barbershop I’ve been getting my haircut from ever since I came to this country. We spoke to Mark and told him the idea and we convinced him to come on board. Mark has got a large clientele. As you know, most of the people that get haircuts downstairs are the same people that mainly get the hats or they know people that get the hats so as a way to do some form of marketing and advertising, everyone has to walk through the retail section to get to the barbershop downstairs which means they get to see what’s in the retail and that’s how the barbershop is bringing more customers. That was our main emphasis behind making it retail upstairs and barbershop downstairs which has worked out quite well. Most of Mark’s customers, from day one, have become our customers as well. With that said, that’s not the only way we attract customers to the store. We also do flyers and social networking and right now, I’m in the process of trying to get more exposure for the business. During the summer, I managed to create what I call ‘Cranium Fresher’s Package‘ which was actually aimed at getting all the freshers to come to the shop and see the barbershop before they go anywhere else. That’s how we managed to get all the freshers before they went anywhere else.
How would you define the state of Coventry’s urban fashion?
I think as for the actual state of urban fashion, the trend that I’m seeing from the young kids is the 90s, especially around the Coventry area. The baseball jackets, Jordans, Timberlands, baggy staff; it’s mainly being driven by what’s happening in the music industry particularly the hip hop genre. The music industry is slightly going back to the 90s with the likes of 90s kids like Joey BadA$$. I think it’s good because you can see that people are now starting to be more unique; trying to stand out. When I was growing it was the Air-maxes, Nike tracksuits, hats…yeah I think that was mainly it. Everyone had Air-maxes and Air-Forces influenced by American fashion. In my opinion, the Coventry urban scene is basically 90s, retro with an urban twist. It’s refreshing.
What do you hope to do next? What projects are you currently working on for the store?
From my angle, I’m constantly looking for new things for the shop and the way I do it is getting brands that are known. That’s what I’m working on now ; to get at least some of the major brands to be stocked in Cranium. What I’ve started to see with the brands that I’m getting in now is that it’s not about how famous the brand is, it’s about the quality of that brand. Some of the brands we’ve brought into the shop are not worldwide known but the quality they’re churning out and what they’re producing is good that a lot of people know about them in the urban scene. Famous enough in England but not worldwide known. So that’s the kind of brands we’re going for and keep it exclusive in the store.
Another project I’m currently working is getting as much exposure as I can for the store. I’m trying to promote Cranium not just as a barbershop and urban store; from my angle, I see Cranium as a central hub of Coventry where everyone can come in because we do have movies, live football and even FIFA tournaments. Every Monday, Saturday and Sunday it’s always a football focus day downstairs and that brings people together; even people that don’t know each other. If everyone’s talking about football and you support that team, it pushes people to engage into conversations; that’s what I’m trying to make Cranium into. Anyone local including Uni students can come in. Our main aim is to provide good quality haircuts and the ultimate customer satisfaction.
Finally, where can readers find out more about you and your work?
You can find out more about me through Twitter & Instagram [@1Shinx.] Our website is currently under reconstruction ready for the next collections but you can also get information about the daily activities and anything involving the shop through the following:
- My Runway Fashion Show (cndive.wordpress.com)
- 5 tips to help you make the most of your Open Day at Coventry University! (covuniuncovered.wordpress.com)
- Fashion Matters (jessicaallenmedia.wordpress.com)
- album news ‘Sent From Cov Too’. Good tunes for a good cause. (thezineuk.wordpress.com)
- WATCH: @ThisIsSamson | ‘Friday’ feat. @Real_JSpades (vaughanmasawiey.com)
- Coventry’s Urban Music Scene: Who’s Really Getting Their-selves Out There? (vaughanmasawiey.com)