london’s legendary stores
From Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren’s World’s End to present day Machine A, London’s fashion insiders talk about the shops that have dictated the city’s style, been the daytime siblings to nighttime clubs and fed the dreams of their customers.
Limitless online choice and vast malls of variation certainly have their place for any shopper, but can you really beat a hand-crafted, lovingly-curated store? i-D has its roots in independent, DIY London, so shares a DNA with all the stores that have represented individual spirit, not only through the styles they offer, but also through the atmosphere and camaraderie they create. Here we take a look back at stores that have been running things in London since i-D began in 1980, and through interviews with some of fashion's finest, we move through 80s Kenny Market, 90s Covent Garden, noughties Shoreditch and up to present day through the favourite stores of the likes of Caryn Franklin, Stephen Jones and Nasir Mazhar.
World's End. Caryn Franklin (Fashion Commentator)
"The one that had the most emotional thrill for me was Vivienne Westwood's shop World's End, which had turquoise walls, a slanting floor, the clock going backwards and the most amazing energy. At the time I'd just started at i-D and I had a little bit of money. Vivienne did her pirate collection and it was unlike anything else. It was bright reds, whites, golds, oranges. Very big baggy clothes that were based on sailing and pirating. It was just something else. It was way out of my price range, but I'd go there and spend a lot of time outside because you'd see people who'd come down just to hang out. I felt like everyone could tell I couldn't afford it. I kind of skulked about there really. I didn't feel brave enough to have conversations. There was a too-cool-to-give-a-shit atmosphere, but it didn't feel threatening. I can only liken it to getting into a very exclusive club, not being turned away at the door, but not being able to afford a drink inside! You're like, "I'm in!" The thrill was massive.
I would look at everything. I remember things being folded up - there weren't rails - so you kind of had to get things out of cubby holes, so even pulling things out was a big deal. I would stretch out being able to be in there and look at things without causing too much disruption. There were bay windows, which gave the sense of being in a galleon. Everyone came there to imagine; imagine a world where they could afford to buy the stuff! I was always waiting around to see if there was a sale, which is pretty much how I shop at Westwood now!
I never saw Vivienne there. There was a tall blond guy who was there as a manager and a woman called Jordan who was a famous store assistant of Vivienne's. I'd read about SEX and Seditionaries, so a chance sighting of her was like seeing a celebrity shop assistant. They were in the world that I wanted to access and I wanted to buy something and they inhabited it effortlessly. I expect they were playing a lot of Bow Wow Wow. I don't remember the music - I was completely set on the visuals. It was the fabrics."
Flip. Stephen Jones (Milliner)
"My favourite place was Flip, which was a second hand American clothing store, and at that time it was one of only two shops which existed on Long Acre. There were no other shops. It was in the early 80s and it wasn't about labels - it was completely not the point. At that time clothing was always attached to music; without the music the clothing had no meaning. It was New Romantic, New Wave, Techno. London was just at the beginning of Thatcherism, so coming out of the very great poverty of London in the 1970s and into the wealth of the 80s. Flip was exciting, alternative and street fashion, which was not considered real fashion and was not featured in the mainstream magazines, which is why i-D was created. The people who hung out there? As they said on the Vivienne Westwood Seditionaries label: "soldiers, prostitutes, dykes and punks". I didn't make any friends there - they terrified me! Back then we thought shops were rather vulgar: they were just something to steal from!"
PX. Tony Glenville (Creative Director at London College of Fashion)
"The hotspots for London Fashion have always moved around, but when PX opened in Covent Garden suddenly those in the know switched their focus to a shop with something we were looking for - true originality. New Romantic, a little bit Kraftwerk and a whole lot London, the product was hot and sharp; and the designers were young and ready to throw new ideas at the customers as fast as they could get them out there.
Originally in the old market at the end of the 70s, it then moved to Endell Street when this seemed an exotic location. Princess Julia, Stephen Jones, Helen Robinson, and others I cannot remember, kept it not just a shop, but a daytime hang-out before clubs like Blitz were ready for the evening, when you could wear the purchases from PX and the other tiny boutiques then mushrooming up across London. Fittings came from anywhere and everywhere and eclectic was the only way to go. It's pretty much where Dover Street Market sits now, all these years later.
I seem to recall a lot of military influences for customers like Steve Strange and Midge Ure, especially things having a diagonal line and fastening, not straight. Some things in really strong reds and blues next the ever present black and great details like, tiny braids, trims in stripes and mother of pearl press stud fastenings. It was much easier in London back then to find a shop, get in, sell and do something exciting; it was about the now, not building a long-term brand! During those years, life was a party and PX certainly offered plenty of clothes to party in. And with its friends and co-creators there was pretty much a permanent party inside."
Shop. Paul Gorman (journalist and author of The Look: Adventures In Pop & Rock Fashion)
"Shop at 5 Brewer St between 1994 and the mid-00s. It was in the basement, so subterranean and had the air of an underground lair. Shop sold mainly womenswear and was run by my friend Pippa Brooks, the singer and DJ who was Madame at the George & Dragon. She had a band at the time called Posh, an anagram of Shop. They were lumped in with the "Romo" scene in the '90s - a new romantic/electro revival but actually much better than that, with cute punchy songs. They were a three piece and Shop was run by her and her partner Max Karie.
Shop always had an eclectic, strong selection, very New York East Village at a time when no-one else in London was investigating that. This is the first place I saw in this country that sold Kim Gordon's X-Girl, and like their great forebears - Granny Takes A Trip, Biba, Sex/Seditionaries - Pippa and Max always had a solid music connection which was natural, not calculated like Top Man glomming onto the festival circuit. They also sold pieces from McLaren's Japan-only label Dead In England, Sonia Rykiel, vintage Fiorucci, Stevie Stewart (ex-Body Map) was a designer as well as Silas and Tocca.
It was also a nice place to visit and meet like-minded people, a hang out. This was Soho when Soho was still great. There were bands, TV presenters, writers, stylists hanging out there, so Shop was a bit of a hub. We would go see Posh play, often on the same bill as that pre-Britpop, messy scene in Camden in places like The Monarch. It was London's version of the East Village at that time - grotty and glamorous, quite dressed up.
What I liked is that both Pippa and Max were fast-moving - just ahead of the curve, as in the mid- to late-90s Shop licensed the Playboy logo just before it became cheapened. And, game as she is, Pippa appeared as a nudie in an edition of Playboy. But then they also did a licensing deal with Babycham, which was very funny. Pippa and Max's greatest success was launching their own label, Shopgirl, having done a deal to rework the traditional label Damart."
"They were obsessed with Shirley Manson of Garbage at the time who I think had once worked on the till in Miss Selfridge and represented a strain of down-trodden but resilient womanhood. They also loved Courtney Love, who used to shop there. And they were brave in changing the name and facade, like Granny's and McLaren before them, into The World According To…, and when they moved into Dean Street, to Shop At Maison Bertaux, which had a fantastic website with quirky one-off video clips.
For me, when music and fashion collide there can be fireworks, and Shop epitomised above all others that in the 90s and early 00s. I miss it hugely and am very glad I put Pippa and James from Posh on the cover of the first edition of my book The Look. For me they sum up the last great hoorah of independent London fashion before we were all shafted by dead-eyed corporatism. Pippa always says of herself and her friends - including me - that we are "determinedly niche". It means you don't get the bucks or the glory but you do things which are memorable and have integrity. And that's her all over."
Michiko Koshino. Mandi Lennard (Mandi's Basement)
"One London Fashion Week in 1989, we made our way over to Westway Studios where Rifat Ozbek presented a film by John Maybury starring Yasmin Le Bon that pulsated with its Snap! The Power soundtrack. Clubs around the time were full-on fashion. I swear no-one at The Wag had anything in their regulation Wright & Teague rucksacks from Jones in Covent Garden, and your look wasn't worth bothering with if you didn't top it with a Bernstock Speirs pleated beret, a silver feather pin by Slim Barrett, and thick silver hoops from Joseph.
Going to a show back then equalled going to a club; the audience loaded with regulars from The Wag, City of Angels, Café de Paris, Ministry of Sound and Shoom. Katharine Hamnett, Nick Coleman, and Michiko Koshino shows were crazy; you were dancing in your seats. The Michiko Koshino store was just off Oxford Street, down Dering Street, opposite Anthony D'Offay's gallery. It felt like no-one else would know it was there, it was so hidden away, which was part of the allure. I bought an orange inflatable jacket not dissimilar to water wings you wear before you learnt to swim. The amount of weight I lost dancing in it, no ventilation in the plastic! At the V&A's 2013 Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s exhibition, I got a massive hit of nostalgia, when I saw it as the opening look."
Super Lovers (and Shoreditch second hand stores). Daryoush Haj-Najafi (Senior Editor, Style, Complex)
"Neal Street around 2000 was on its last legs of cool, but skaters would hang out at Slam City Skates and also at the Carhartt store. You'd always go to the Carhartt store to check out hot boys that worked there. Loads of my friends worked at this Japanese store called Super Lovers on Neal Street: photographer Matt Irwin, a model called David Lindwall, The Lovely Jonjo DJ. They sold Japanese clothes. It was sort of nu-rave before nu-rave, very Harajuku. In Soho there was Pineal Eye and Eley Kishimoto, Kokon To Zai.
Kokon To Zai was nothing like it is now. It was really important as a record shop. It was the electroclash record shop. You'd just go in there, chat, hang out and buy the records. So there used to be cool shops in Soho, but when I first came to London I was in Shoreditch and there were not any shops. There was one shop called Hoxton, but there weren't many. It was all about second hand clothes, ripped jeans, Converse, a studded belt. The whole point of that seminal hipster era was that you were meant to buy something weird and second hand. Nobody wore designer clothes. Nobody wore any label that wasn't obviously fake. You had fake Louis Vuitton bags from Ridley Road or whatever. You had a few people who worked at McQueen, or Giles Deacon, Luella or Katie Grand knocking round, or Alastair Mackie in some mad fur coat. But it was very rare.
Back then in Shoreditch you could definitely see the kind of ironic conspicuous consumption. So the bar girls at The Bricklayers would wear fur, which at the time - this is like 1999 - was really wrong. Nobody would do that! It was about grotesque fashion. Whereas now, conspicuous consumption is something we all do, all the time. I remember a couple of us had these mad leather biker jackets that you'd buy in the shops down Brick Lane for £100. I remember walking down the street and this guy saying, "You might as well have a sign that says 'I'm a faggot.'" I think it looked like a Tom of Finland jacket."
Pineal Eye. Nicola Formichetti (Creative Director, Diesel)
"It was, for me, one of the most avant-garde stores form the late 90s to early 2000s. My career started at Pineal Eye really. When I moved to London from Italy in the late 90s I started working there. Yuko Yabiku the Japanese lady who opened the original Kokon To Zai store and I used to go there all the time to listen to records like a club kid. She wanted to start her own store and she asked me if I wanted to be involved.
Initially it was supposed to be a toy store from Japan but I had a lot of designer friends like Noki, so we thought why not open a store selling young designers? It sounds really normal now, but at that time to have almost customised clothing from Noki next to YSL and Hedi Slimane, Raf Simons and Viktor & Rolf was very special. I was only there for two years because through the shop I lent to magazines and that's how I got into the magazine world.
Our idea was to have a store in the basement, so we took the floor out and our window was this floating window so we would hang mannequins from the ceiling. It was a fucking nightmare to change them - we needed scaffolding - but it looked really special from street level, with mannequins floating. One night we had a Viktor & Rolf couture dress and it fell and there were these huge necklaces made from glass that broke. We were like, "It's fashion! It's art!"
We were such a small shop but designers like Hedi and Raf were really supportive and would let us just buy pieces from their collections. We had art and books and it was very multi-cultural. It was like a 3-D magazine. We used to dress up a lot in the store. It was a fun place to hang out. Yuko was into experimental music and I was into indie. It was full of club kids and drag queens and loads of Japanese people back then, when the economy was still good!"
EUFORIA Carri Munden (Cassette Playa)
"EUFORIA was in Ladbroke Grove and was run by Annette Oliveri, an Italian designer, hippy and mum/big sister to us all. The shop was laid back, eclectic; more like a gallery than a shop at times. It was even more laid back when it was approaching Carnival! I started working there in 2000 and we stocked Bless, Tsubi, Hussein Chalayan, WLT, Hysteric Glamour and art books and zines from people like Larry Clark. The crowd was West London kids, Japanese tourists and indie heroes - Daman Albarn, Ian Brown and Brett Anderson all came by the shop with their partners.
I met M.I.A and Justine Frischmann there who were living together with Luella Bartley round the corner at the time. My first ever girl crush was Justine when I was 14, so I was pretty blown away. Maya also worked in the store and I curated her first art exhibition there before we went on to work together on Arular and Kala. I loved Bunny the Jamaican window cleaner. He used to call me yellow and say, "Hello yellow" and he once rescued me from some creepy guys asking me to try on swimwear. Also once someone graffitied the massive glass window front with the word "cunt" with that spray that has acid in and etches onto the class. Of course Annette considered renaming the store rather than replacing the glass!"
Machine-A. Nasir Mazhar (Designer)
"I've been working with Anna Trevelyan since our very first show when she was assisting Nicola. She's the creative director there and does the buying with Stavros. Every time I go to central I go and see Stavros, see the shop. Stavros is incredible in that he really cares about the brands that he stocks. He really spends time figuring out what a collection is about, how I'm working, how our studio works. When people go in, he's always there and because he knows so much about collections and designers, he can give you the full lowdown. He explains techniques and he's always there to help you.
They're often the first people to stock a lot of people and a lot of the brands. With graduates, Stavros always gets involved there and does projects with them and gets them in store. He's helped fund collections, given them business advice. He helped Beth Postle, Saint Martins' graduate. It's still massage parlours and prostitutes and weird drunk people around there. It's definitely changed. 15 years ago, from what I remember, Soho was nothing like that at all. It used to be much rougher and seedier. It was red lights and windows and doors wide open. Dingey. It is a bit sad because it was another interesting part of London. It was another side of life that you see and maybe dabble in, but it looks like everywhere else now doesn't it? You used to go there if you wanted to be naughty and go to sex clubs and loads of gay bars. Now it can be like being in Stratford Westfield."
Text Stuart Brumfitt
Main image photography Marius Hansen. Styling Vivienne Westwood. i-D, The Agyness Deyn Issue, No. 287, May 2008