Let’s talk a little about character. True, unabashed, concentrated character. London is, with a doubt, bursting at the seams with it. The city is a sickly sweet cordial- a rich, reliable formula waiting for all (the water in this analogy) to mix with it. “If you’re tired of London, you are tired of life”, whispered Samuel Johnson, years ago. Although the world outside of this urban peninsula has much to offer, if you want to see true creativity and originality in its purest and most frequent form, there is no place better. In this series, we will explore different aspects of the city’s personality and how it has not only been shaped, but shapes others. From the fabled Dover St market in East London, to British Designers popping up in Milan, there is a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ lurking in our furniture choices, or be it our understanding of spaces, that sets this city apart from others.
Character 1: “We pretend to believe in fairies”
There is no better way to sum up the whimsical, ironic palette of many of London’s shop owners. We Londoners, surrounded by slush and gutters, are far from oblivious to the greyer colour scheme that dominates our city. We create shops drenched in white and pink, cakes whipped in cream and sugar and merchandise chasing innocence, simply because we are aware of what lurks below the surface. We use this take on interior and retail design as a way of commenting on this very contradiction. Not all admit this. Behind the curving parade of Oxford Street and its neighbouring cronies, Saville Row and co,. escapism is still at the root of interior pastel fantasies. Their customers truly want to leave the our dirty streets behind. However, you may notice the wry smile on the face of staff inhabiting shops such as Biscuiteers in West London. The shop front has been painted to look as if it were photocopied from an old book of line drawings. Their pastries are, of course, bight and mostly flower shaped; their audience, high end; their packaging soaked in whimsy- yet one can feel that they don’t take themselves too seriously.
This is the case with many shops who inhabited this facet of the London ‘character’. They understand that visitors from abroad want the ‘English’ experience if you will, yet they know that Londoners see through it. Thus, the need for a solution or an ‘edge’, if you will, manifests. These references to a ‘tea and cake’ England that hardly exists anymore, in its most pure form, is in fact this ‘edge’. Approaching the motif with such tenacity and intensity takes away irrelevance and replaces it with a new creative narrative of our tradition