Makers of London: Samantha Warren



Professional textile designer Samantha Warren launched her eponymous brand of stylish accessories and gifts in 2013. Heavily influenced by her love of nature and travel, her products combine vibrant aesthetics with practical functionality.


The City Story: Tell us a little bit about how the concept of your accessories and gifts line came about.

Samantha Warren: I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial and had experimented with a couple of business ideas before setting up my own brand. After years of designing for high street fashion brands, I saw an opportunity to combine my commercial experience with an experimental approach to print design to create statement and wearable accessories. Central to this approach is a constant push to be playful while still producing wearable and elegant objects.

TCS: How does your love of nature and travel influence your work?

SW: Nature relaxes me, and I feel so inspired when I’m in these environments.

I’ve always had a love for landscapes and open spaces, maybe due to the fact that I grew up in south London. My love of travel is perhaps an extension of this love of nature, and the desire to see new and inspiring places and people. One of my most popular collections was inspired by Iceland, where I was completely blown away by the beauty and scale of the landscape. The theme of nature has naturally continued as I’ve designed new collections and played with new techniques and products. The energy, smells, and my emotions in these surroundings all help to inspire my work and I love honing in on interesting colour palettes, unexpected pops of colour, textures, and organic shapes.

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TCS: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?

SW: Prior to launching my own brand, I worked primarily as a print designer. Moving from this specialised role into taking on the design, prototyping, development, and distribution of my own products was, and still is, a huge learning curve. Besides that there is the day-to-day balancing act of design, marketing, sales and dealing with an increasingly challenging retail environment. Being a small company means that it can be difficult to balance all these functions, but it also means I can adapt quickly to changing markets and design and develop new products with agility.

TCS: How does London inspire your work?

SW: I’ve lived in London my whole life, so I think that the city has shaped much of who I am as a person and a designer. London is such an inspiring, energetic and eclectic place, which comes through in my use of colour and print techniques. It also informs a more practical side of my work. Urban living requires stylish but also functional products, which is a nice synergy of requirements to work with.

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TCS: Are there any interesting clients you’ve met through the sale of your products?

SW: All of my clients are interesting, really. I love hearing what they think of my work, especially those in the art and design fields who really respect my unique style. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a happy customer wear my products with pride and joy.

TCS: What are your short-term and long-term goals, going forward?

SW: I like to think big. My overarching ambition is to make Samantha Warren a household name. This really defines much of my short- and long-term goals. I am hopeful that continuing to fuse my experimental approach to print techniques with beautifully practical accessories will be the secret to my success.

We discovered Samantha Warren through Shopping With Soul.



Head To God’s Own Junkyard For A Lit Weekend

 god's own junkyard


Located in Walthamstow is God’s Own Junkyard, a salvage yard containing the personal works of late neon artist Chris Bracey. You can find props, backdrops, and signage Bracey made for movies like Blade Runner alongside vintage signs and disco balls. It’s a neon paradise you can’t miss.
God’s Own Junkyard, Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, London, E17 9HQ. Phone: 020 8521 8066. It is open on weekends: Friday & Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Rolling Scones Café is open for food and drinks all weekend.


It’s almost bizarre to think there is a wonderland of neon lights, vintage signs, and old movie props in a decrepit industrial estate on the edges of Walthamstow and Wood Street. A few years ago, Ravenswood Industrial Estate was a bit of a dump with no reason to go there unless you got lost looking for a garage. Today, it has been transformed into “the” place to be on a weekend. You have two breweries, a gin bar, a regular pizza stall, and the jewel in its crown: God’s Own Junkyard.
The late world-famous neon-artist Chris Bracey’s God’s Own Junkyard was the first shop to set up there, and it’s a psychedelic world of its own. He created signs for a number of movies, including Blade Runner and four Batman films and, sure enough, the props, backdrops, and signage used in those movies are displayed in God’s Own Junkyard.
Instantly Intsagrammable from the threshold of this weird and wonderful place, you’ll find at the most popular spot a Jesus statue holding neon guns under a sign saying, “Madonna’s Erotic Show”. It’s indeed reminiscent of the Jesus statue in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. And while you’re there, you can give your neck and eyes a bit of a break by stopping for some cream tea, cakes, sandwiches, or coffee. God’s Own Junkyard houses a café, The Rolling Scones. But of course, it’s just a side act to the wondrous colourful, trippy, lit up world of disco balls and wacky signs. 
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Makers Of London: Debbie Carne Of Alijoe Designs

alijoe designs


Debbie Carne is the owner and creator behind Alijoe Designs, a one-woman studio that breathes new life into vintage ceramic plates. We talk to Debbie about her creations and what it means to be a maker in London.

alijoe designs


The City Story: When did you kickstart Alijoe Designs?
Debbie Carne:
I officially launched in May 2014 but was working with vintage plates for a few months before that.

TCS: How did you came upon the idea of ceramic decals?
I went on a short course at Morley College about applying decals to ceramics. I loved it and was sufficiently inspired to try out some concepts at home. The lightbulb moment came when I saw the fabulous impact of juxtaposing collage and quirky imagery onto pretty vintage plates – by making my own decals, I was reinventing the decorative plate.

TCS: Do you do all the work yourself or do you have a team? 
Absolutely – it is just me!

TCS: Where is your studio located? What do you like most about that neighbourhood?
I work from home in Highgate, North London. I have lived much of my life in the area and love it – it is a village and feels very countrified yet it is really quick to get in to the Centre.

TCS: How do you choose your designs?
They tend to come to me any time and anywhere – often in the middle of the night! I work with concepts, and sometimes, the original plate design will spark an idea or I will think of something that could work well on a plate. 

alijoe designs

TCS: Do you have a favourite among all the decals you’ve worked on?

DC: That’s a tricky one but I think I would choose my Twisted Leg Collection and the various ideas “On Tap”.

TCS: What’s the best part about being a maker in London?
I can’t imagine living or working anywhere else, and being so close to so many places to visit and explore means that inspiration is potentially on tap whenever required.

alijoe designs

TCS: Let us in on a London insight.
I walk as much as I can in London. It’s the best way to experience the myriad of architectures and cultures from one street to the next – however well you think you know London, you never quite know what will be around the corner.

We discovered Alijoe Designs through Shopping With Soul.



Makers Of London: Aimee Furnival Of Another Studio

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO another studio aimee furnival


Another Studio focuses on creating original products for the desk, home, and workplace. Whether it’s tiny animals for your plants or 3D models of famous landmarks or even bookmarks, they’ve got it covered. We caught up with Aimee Furnival to know more about her craft and practice.

another studio aimee furnival


The City Studio: How long has Another Studio been around?

Aimee Furnival: I launched the first design in 2010, can’t believe where the time has gone!

TCS: Can you tell us a little about your journey – how did you decide on starting such a distinctive design studio, and what inspired the idea behind it?

AF: I was at a stage where I wanted to have a more creative career, but there were very few jobs for product design. I felt the only option was to create my own role where I could develop my own ideas and learn new skills. At the time, there were few well-designed, thoughtful gifts that retailed for £10 that I really liked. At the heart of the studio is a love for creative, considered, and inventive products that are fun to use or make you smile. I have a slight obsession with miniature objects, so playing with scale has always been very important. The most important criteria for all our designs are “would I buy this”. I have to feel like I’d walk into a shop and be swooned by it.

TCS: Does the city influence your work in any way?

AF: Absolutely. How could this amazing city not! I grew up on a small island, so London’s always felt monumental. I love how diverse it is, be it the architecture, people, or the number of events and exhibitions. The skyline is ever-changing, and I find this so inspiring; the city keeps pushing forward, and that inspires how we work, always developing new ideas.

TCS: Can you name a few designers whose work you admire?

AF: Italian designer Matteo Cibic, I absolutely love the Domsai desk terrariums, they are such playful and beautiful objects; I really enjoy following Sabine Timm on Instagram as her creations always bring a smile;  Ruth Martin is my go to for greeting cards and little gifts, they are so much fun and so different from other stationery. I also really admire the “mellow collection” of vases by South Korean designers Hattern.


another studio aimee furnival

TCS: Do you have a favourite borough in London?

AF: Not sure I can choose! I’ve lived and worked all over London in the last 20 years so am attached to how different the boroughs are. I always enjoy visiting Southwark for a walk along the river, Camden for the busy city life of Soho and the quiet retreat of Hampstead Heath. I really love living in Lewisham on the top of the hill as it has incredible views of the city which I never tire of.

TCS: It’s mentioned that Another Studio is inspired by origami – what is your favourite origami figure to make?

AF: Ha, well actually I couldn’t make anything without instructions! I’m inspired by how origami is really ingenious and systematic, simply creating an amazing three dimensional figure from a single flat sheet.

TCS: How easy or difficult is it to sustain a unique design business such as yours?

AF: Of course it has its challenges. Finding great people to work with is key, be that my brilliant staff (Hannah and Lahla), the amazing retailers who stock our products, working with freelance creatives (stylists and photographers), or having excellent relationships with the factories that produce our designs.

another studio aimee furnival

TCS: What according to you is a perfect desk?

AF: Probably Hannah’s desk, who is Studio Manager! My desk is an explosion of samples, sketchbooks, and paperwork. Hannah’s is clear, tidy and calm – I’m constantly in awe.

TCS: Where do you see Another Studio in the next five years?

AF: We’re doing a lot more consultancy and bespoke work for retailers, so I see this becoming a bigger side of the business alongside creating our own products. I want the company to grow, but the most important thing is to create a nice, happy work environment for my small team and staff to enjoy. Work should be fun, and that’s how I want to keep the studio!

We discovered Another Studio through Shopping With Soul.



Makers Of London: Amy Grimes of Hello Grimes

hello grimes


An independent online brand that retails illustrated prints, stationery, pins, and textiles, Hello Grimes was founded in 2017. We catch up with its founder, Amy Grimes, to know more about her work and her relationship with the city.


The City Story: Hello Grimes is a year old. How long did you think about setting up shop before actually doing it?

Amy Grimes: I studied illustration at university, and so I’ve been creating work for a lot longer than I started selling it under the name Hello Grimes. In 2017, I started to post my work online and considered setting up shop when friends and family discovered what I was drawing (mainly through Instagram) and kept asking to buy them as prints. Since then it’s sort of snowballed into selling them in person, through a website, at craft markets, and then eventually through wholesale to retailers; it was definitely an organic progression and not planned at all but really happy with where it’s led!

TCS: Your illustrations have a very clear nature theme – do your surroundings/neighbourhood inspire you? 

AG: Definitely! Some of the prints are inspired by places I’ve been (Rockpools was inspired after a trip to Cornwall), but a lot of them are also imagined or inspired by books. As you can tell, it’s pretty much all landscapes and plant illustrations, so sometimes it’s just somewhere I’d rather be when London feels too urban.

hello grimes

TCS: Can you name a few illustrators whose work you admire?

AG: Right now, I absolutely love the work of Rachael Dean and also Heikala – they both use paints and more traditional techniques rather than digital illustration, which is probably why I admire their work, because it’s different to how I create images. Their works also have beautiful tones and colours, which I find really appealing.

TCS: Name a favourite place for a weekend getaway.

AG: I recently went to Rye in Sussex for a weekend, which was great as it’s near the sea but the inland countryside is also beautiful. It was also one of the hottest weekends of the year, which helped – I love anywhere near the sea and think there are so many beautiful places in Britain that I still need to discover.

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TCS: Would you say London is an easy place to be an independent maker?

AG: I would say that it’s a great place to be to meet loads of other makers and designers; the community of designer-makers here is really great, and everyone has always been friendly and open. I’ve met so many interesting people through various craft fairs and markets, and it’s always nice to see such a variety of makers, all with completely different styles and products. There are also plenty of different markets and fairs to choose from, which is great as you can keep yourself really busy. For anyone that hasn’t done a fair or market before I’d say go for it, the community of people involved are so supportive and in a city as big as London, you will always be able to find people that are interested in what you do.

TCS: Could you tell us your favourite borough in the city? Why do you like it?

AG: I live in Brockley, Lewisham, which I love – it’s got loads of green space and doesn’t feel like London sometimes. There’s also a really good community atmosphere here, especially in the summer when there are loads of street parties and open studios to visit. In general, I love it south of the river as there’s loads going on and it feels more creative.

hello grimes

TCS: Is Hello Grimes going to expand to apparel or other products any time soon?

AG: I’m actually launching some new textile products this week at One Year In, which is part of New Designers – I’ve designed some botanical and leafy fabrics that are hand made in the UK into pencil cases, makeup bags, and A5 notebooks – they will be available on my website next weekend; really excited to see if people like them! I would love to create a whole range of homeware/interior products in the future, but right now I’d like to focus on creating a small but considered range and see how they go.

We discovered Hello Grimes through Shopping With Soul.



Makers Of London: Sabine Gerth Of S Gerth Leather Accessories

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO sabine gerth s gerth leather accessories broadway market hackney


In this week’s edition of our Makers series we caught up with Sabine Gerth of S Gerth Leather Accessories to find out more about her graphic, detailed, and unique products. With a focus on wallets, bags, lanyards and keychains, her accessories are one-of-a-kind and Sabine has a keen interest in customising products as well.

S Gerth, Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ.


The City Story: Tell us a little more about S-Gerth – what made you start your label?

Sabine Gerth: This is a bit difficult to answer as it feels like it has been such a long process. After my father passed away in 2011 I needed some time off. In that time, I started making little bits and bobs with leather, and in 2012 my partner and I organised an art project called Limited Space, where he showed some illustrations in a cupboard under a set of stairs, so I took that opportunity to show my tiny collection.

My friends gave me a lot of positive feedback, so I started making more products and at the same time started to apply to sell at markets. An organiser of one of these markets referred me to Broadway Market where I am selling my wares since.

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TCS: Did you study design or are you self-taught?

SG: I would say half-and-half. The design part is studied, the leather work is self-taught. I studied graphic design first and then did additional studies in fashion design/womenswear, both in Germany. After that I came to the UK and freelanced for the accessories designer Kate Sheridan – who really taught and inspired me a lot.

TCS: Your designs have very clean lines and come in the most delightful colour combinations. Have you always had this approach to your work or did your aesthetic evolve over time?

SG: I have always had a graphic approach to design as it is embedded in my background. And I absolutely love colours. That said, it has definitely developed over the years. This is, though, a reason why I am still making unique pieces and not collections. It is my favourite part to choose the colours and bring them together each time.

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TCS: Where do you source your leather from?

SG: I mainly go to leather merchants in London. I started off with just using off cuts but nowadays I also buy whole skins. Often they are still one-offs as bigger companies need larger supplies but I can just use smaller pieces up. The main focus is that the quality is very good

TCS: You have a weekly stall at Broadway Market. Do you retail at other markets as well? What’s the best route to getting an S-Gerth product?

SG: I used to do quite a few other design markets but since I had my son in 2015 I have slowed down a little. Recently I have started to again but not on a weekly basis. So, Broadway Market or online are the best way to get your hands on my products, otherwise check out my Instagram, I will always post there if I am popping up somewhere else or if a new stockist is on the horizon.

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TCS: Can you tell us the best and worst part of being a maker in the city of London?

SG: London is an amazing city and has so much to offer. It is diverse and inspirational and keeps the creativity alive. Also, there are lots of like-minded people. I love the exchange and support of all my independent designer friends. Another bonus is that the public transport network is well developed so there’s no need to own a car.

One of the things that started bothering me about London is the pollution, and I hope this issue will be tackled in the near future. It is also a very expensive to live in. But the silver lining is that it keeps you on your toes even though it can be quite stressful sometimes.

Photographs by Juhi Pande



Makers Of London: Catherine Tough Knitwear



In our new series – Makers of London – we profile people around the city invested in making and creating products. In this edition, we talk to Catherine Tough of Catherine Tough Knitwear about her products but most importantly – worldwide sock domination! catherine tough


The City Story: Why socks? You have multiple products under your brand, but socks are fairly predominant. Catherine Tough: I started the business making products for interiors and only added the socks to go with our hot water bottle covers, but as soon as we launched them it was clear there was a gap in the market for quality lambswool socks. They are such a fun product to design and they are now the best-selling product in our collection. People always need socks, and they make a great gift TCS: Do you design all the products, or do you have a design team you work with? Where do you drive your inspiration from? CT: I design the collection with our studio manager Chloe Whale – we have worked together for nearly 10 years and have very similar tastes, so it makes the job easy…there have been some styles that you know will be an instant hit and others which are a bit more experimental. The challenge is to build a better collection from the previous seasons and learn from customer feedback to drive us on. I love working with colour and texture and never get bored of knitting. Catherine Tough_003 TCS: Where are your products made? CT: We make a lot of our products at the studio in East London where we have a mini-factory of sorts knitting the products from scratch. It is easier for us to manage the flow of the handmade items this way, maintaining a minimal stock and having full quality control, which is very important. We make our socks in Portugal, we have worked with the same factory for 10 years. They are very flexible and we have developed the quality of the socks together. We initially looked at Portugal for commercial reasons – to wholesale UK produced socks is quite a challenge if you aren’t making them yourself – but we have a great relationship, and I wouldn’t make them anywhere else now. TCS: Could you tell us a little more about the production process – from sheep to socks/hats/brooches/scarves? CT: We start with a product in mind and put together some rough sketches. From there we look at yarn shade cards from various spinners to get the best colours. Once we have sample cones of yarn, we knit up a fabric and make up a few prototypes before we decide on the finished product. Most products have various stages of production; for example, a scarf we knit at the studio probably has 1,000 rows of knitting, but you also need to wash, dry, press, and label each item so it takes a while! Catherine Tough_005 TCS: You live and work in Hackney –why is the borough is special to you? CT: I have lived in Hackney for over 15 years, and both my children were born in the borough. I moved to Hackney from West London when it was much more run down but had a lovely community feel and lots of people I knew were moving to the area… I even met my partner as studio neighbours, and we have been here ever since. You bump into people you know all the time. And despite its once less than flattering reputation, it is a great place to live in, and you never get bored. TCS: What’s in the future for Catherine Tough products? CT: We have recently started selling to the US, and now the kids are more grown up it is easier to travel more, so I would have to go with worldwide sock domination.


10 Questions With Jewellery Designer Keeley Hogg

keeley hogg i love dolly jewellery designer


Keeley Hogg is a jewellery designer and maker and owner of the brand I Love Dolly. All of her pieces are handcrafted using traditional methods. You can buy I Love Dolly jewellery from their Etsy page. You can also get in touch with Keeley and commission pieces by contacting her on her Instagram page.


Calling Keeley Hogg a mere “jewellery designer” is a bit of a misnomer: she’s more of a jewellery maker, a copper and silversmith, if you will. Give her a piece of copper and silver and she’ll turn these sheets and wires into earrings, pendants, bracelets, and even cufflinks. All her pieces, which can take up to 12 hours to make, are carefully and painstakingly created by hand. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. The City Story spoke with Keeley to find out what exactly attracted her to this craft and the story behind her jewellery brand I Love Dolly.

The City Story: When did you start making/designing Jewellery?

KH: Gosh, some time ago now – time flies! My former mother-in-law bought me some tools and was into all sorts of crafts including jewellery making which really inspired me to have a go. I started off with simple beading, which turned to wire-wrapping, which turned to silversmithing. I never knew the technical skill required for setting a stone until now. It’s great to look at pieces of jewellery and understand the work involved.

TCS: What attracted you to this craft?

KH: I have dabbled in lots of crafts over the years such as knitting, crochet, life drawing, painting, pottery…if you are creative, it can be difficult to stick to just one! But making jewellery is multi-faceted and a great stage on which to play out your ideas, experiment, grow, and be free to explore artistry and craft. The endless possibilities continue to flame my passion for it – working with a range of metals (including wire and sheet silver, gold, copper, bronze, brass), soldering, metal paints, clay, enamelling, gemstones, electroforming, etching, upcycled materials – it taps into everything you could want creatively.
It helps that I love jewellery too!
silversmith keeley hogg i love dolly

TCS: Describe a typical day in your Jewellery studio – including the stages the metal and stone go through from start to finish.

KH: Well there is generally a lot of tea drinking involved! But aside from that, you start with a raw piece of sheet metal or wire, and it is then transformed using many processes such as sawing, filing, bending, shaping, texturing, hammering, soldering, and polishing before it looks like something you would want to wear. All of my jewellery is crafted by hand using traditional methods that have been used for many, many years. It’s amazing what you can create with a few basic tools! Just heating a piece of silver until it melts into a ball can be fascinating (it’s the geek in me). Setting stones opens up a whole new love and passion, with all the processes they go through before you buy them and they end up in a ring or in a brooch. I recently discovered the iolite stone (a purply-blue coloured stone). It’s depth of colour is brilliant.

TCS: What’s your favourite metal and stone to work with?

KH: There are so many types of stones, I really couldn’t choose! I spent a day out at Hatton Garden recently buying gems (a place called Ward Gemstones, which is like heaven for jewellers). I had to be dragged away!
My passion for metal started with copper. It’s a lovely rich colour that can be utterly transformed from the dull orange you see in, for example, your central heating pipes! It can be rustic or shiny and it can be soft and malleable to work with (perfect for weaving and wirewrapping). That said, silversmithing has given me the opportunity to really develop my skills and learn very advanced techniques I never thought would be accessible. I have learned most of my skills at very reasonably priced council-run courses in Waltham Forest and Redbridge where you get to meet inspiring tutors and fellow makers.

TCS: What are the key elements of your work?

KH: I like my pieces to look simple and elegant (even if the work involved tells a different story!) No two pieces are ever really the same when it comes to something handcrafted. The main point is to have a good workable design, an element of practicality and an immaculate finish.

TCS: Is there a story behind your brand name?

KH: Yes! My nan was called Doris and was often called Dolly. She was an inspiring, happy, positive, and feisty woman who was unfortunately only in my life into my early teens when she died. I still often think about her and would love her to have seen what I make. Calling my little shop I Love Dolly felt like the best way to have her somewhere in what I do.
silversmith keeley hogg i love dolly

TCS: Do you have a favourite piece of jewellery – one that you’ve designed or one that you wish you had designed and made. 

KH: My favourite pieces are those I have made for my husband. I made him a pair of cufflinks with the words “Vita Brevis” hand stamped onto them (he’s a Latin teacher and it was his dating profile date, which is how we met). They were an early creation in my silversmith career and are far from perfect – they are a little wonky and off centre and the hand stamping is uneven (with one letter even being back to front!) but he loves that I made them for him, which makes me love them too. I also made his wedding ring using sterling silver and gold and the two colours complement each other perfectly. I’m proud to see him wear and love something made with my own hands every day.
I am also inspired by jewellery from ancient times (the British Museum has lots on display) as techniques used then haven’t changed much, which is astonishing when you think about how far we have come technology-wise in other respects. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, I guess the old saying goes! They would have used pretty basic tools and some of the pieces are simply exquisite.

TCS: What are your design ethics? 

KH: It is always great to be inspired by other artists but you have to allow your own inspiration to do its work. So finding your own style is important. I still attend workshops/classes and if all the jewellers are set the same task it’s unbelievable how different everyone’s piece is!

TCS: How does your local surroundings/city inspire your work? 

KH: I like to draw on nature and things around me. I love geometric patterns and art deco styles. I sometimes work with old coins which are often beautifully patterned and textured as well as being steeped in history. I also scavenge for sea glass on beaches (around the UK and abroad). The best pieces for jewellery are perfectly frosted and discovering rare coloured glass is always a treat (and fascinating to learn why certain coloured glass ends up on particular beaches).

TCS: What’s the final dream for I Love Dolly? 

KH: To keep being inspired, to keep learning and to continue to enjoy making pieces people love to wear. I am working on a commission piece at the moment for an anniversary gift and it is truly heartwarming to be able to transform their vision into the piece of jewellery they want to give their partner on such a special occasion. It is one of the best things about being a jeweller! 

VV Rouleaux_001

Laced With Love


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As part of our Kickstarter rewards, we offered backers the chance to have a story written about a place, establishment or person they would like featured on The City Story. Deborah Cohen recommended VV Rouleaux in Marylebone. Thank you, Deborah, for your support!

Haberdasheries are a thing of amusement for me. I grew up, luckily, watching my very creative mum turn old shawls and saris into dresses for my sister and I, coats for the stray dogs around where we lived in Kolkata during the winters, ornate table mats and pillowcases. If I didn’t like an outfit, my mum knew exactly where to add a pattern to turn it into one that I adored. We would often go pick up the trimmings together and the excitement I felt imagining what would eventually become of those supplies is palpable, even in memory.

I have unfortunately inherited none of that resourcefulness, but I know my mum will love VV Rouleaux. It sits at the corner of a street dotted with some interesting retailers – a buttons-only store, a shop selling all kinds of jams and chutneys. But VV Rouleaux is in its own league and is on a mission to make anyone feel unique. It’s the Marilyn Monroe of haberdasheries. You cannot help being drawn in.

You can find an overwhelming variety of ribbons on offer – silk, cotton, velvet, satin, and taffeta. Printed, monochrome or polka-dotted, this shop has all the trimmings and tassels you’d never think existed and didn’t know you wanted. Reams and rows of colours capture your imagination – a future cushion cover here, a potentially fancy waistcoat there and maybe some kitsch buttons for effect on a necklace.

Printed, monochrome or polka-dotted, this shop has all the trimmings and tassels you’d never think existed and didn’t know you wanted.

It’s not just the variety of ribbons and materials, though, that captive your senses at VV Rouleaux. There are the feathers – lavish and bold – that sprinkle glamour across the small store. The gorgeous hats, fascinators and hair bands make you want to throw a Great Gatsby themed party just to have an occasion to do them justice. These pieces are for the confident. There’s hardly anything understated about VV Rouleaux.

Annabel Lewis, the founder of VV Rouleaux, closed her flower shop in Parsons Green to open a ribbon shop in 1990. Her love for flowers, however, is apparent here as you can feast your eyes on a selection of beautiful, hand-made flowers of all colours and sizes. It’s an ideal destination to find statement corsages as well.

VV Rouleaux has won numerous awards for its impeccable style and its products adorn the pages of almost all leading fashion and interior decorating publications regularly. You can also buy these products at UK’s high-end retailers such as Liberty and John Lewis. But this store at Marylebone embodies what VV Rouleaux is about – individuality and panache. From its vintage, quirky lampshades to the glitzy window displays, it spells out exclusivity in every inch, giving you all the ingredients you need to create something special, something rare.

I now have a bunch of multicoloured lace and ribbons from VV Rouleaux occupying a shelf in my cupboard (I dare anyone to go in there and not spend a pretty penny). I don’t know how to use any of it but I’ll save them for the next time I see my mum. While I can only admire the rows of silks and satins and run my fingers across the different textures, my mum can bring them to life. She always knows exactly what to do with a smile and a ribbon.

VV Rouleaux, 102 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2QD. Phone: 020 7224 5179
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Furniture Butcher_005

Out Of The Woodwork


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Cal Smith butchers furniture.

He carves it up. Deconstructs it. Hacks, cleaves, slices and dices. Then he puts it back together to your own designs and desires, creating something new, functional and beautiful from treasured old materials.

It could be your grandmother’s outdated sideboard lurking in your attic, coated in thick dust and framed by cobwebs, or the sturdy old dining room set that you inherited from grandpa languishing half-forgotten in the basement because it just doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of your home. Family heirlooms steeped in nostalgia that you can’t bring yourself to dispose.

Cal reveals and refines other uses that lie hidden in, and are greater than, the knotty grain of its parts. His is a nose-to-tail kind of butchery, with nothing going to waste – something which becomes quite apparent when you visit his workshop.

As you sit in the repurposed room – once a butcher’s, then a rented flat, now a bar – you realise it is a breathing incarnation of what Cal does.

Cal works in the grounds of a former butcher shop in East London, which he has transformed from rented accommodation into a new space that serves as a café and shop by day and his bar – Brewer’s Bar – by night. It might seem a strange marriage – furniture design and bar work – but the two businesses are intricately entwined. The bar makes the furniture design financially viable, but it is also the furniture’s showroom, as is the building as a whole. The space and the way that it has been treated stands testament to the very considered way that Cal approaches his timbered fare.

Visit J.R. Brewer and you’ll see the original butcher’s marble put to use as counter tops where you rest your evening tipple. You’ll see the stripped back walls revealing glimpses of layered Victorian wallpaper, the patchwork of patterns a nod to the multitudinous history of the building. And of course there are the recycled items which make up so many of the essential elements in the room, collected and stored over the years from flea markets and car boot sales – the materials then dictating what was to be created.

The bar itself, for example, is made from a piano. This was Cal’s family piano, which could no longer be housed when the family moved from his childhood home. Rather than carelessly cast it off to a tip, Cal tenderly took it to pieces, and squirreled it away, knowing it would come in handy and be put to another use. It seems rather comforting, this ability to transport bits and pieces of home around, lending each new space a subtle sense of the familiar.

When asked where this love of tinkering, recycling and material-metamorphosis comes from, Cal speaks of his parents. They were both artists, and his mother in particular was an absolute hoarder of antiques and vintage collectables. He describes the many random objects that had been transposed into sculptures all over the house and how, growing up, he and his brother were encouraged to do the same. They were given hammers, nails and boxes of scrap wood instead of toys, and told quite simply to make things.

It might seem a strange marriage – furniture design and bar work – but the two businesses are intricately entwined.

Cal studied conservation. He had studied art but wanted to hone a craft with more of a practical element, to explore the relationship between functionality, aesthetics, and the meaning that can lie behind both. This functional philosophy and a love of breathing new life into old forgotten things goes beyond furniture restoration – it’s apparent even in why Cal was drawn to the building he now works from. 77 Shacklewell Lane sits on an old street, steeped in Hackney history, but haunted by disused shops. Cal liked the idea of getting the area back into use, taking the shell of a former space and translating it into part of a new local economy.

When asked what his “furniture fillet steak” might be, Cal talks about a recent Ai Wei Wei exhibition that had given him food for thought. The artist bought up a whole host of decorative wooden elements from temples in China that were being knocked down to make way for mass developments, and he then used these pieces to make political sculptures. It seems this kind of thing is Cal’s prime cut – the use of special, salvaged materials to create something visually arresting but with a specific use. He pointed to the sign that in turn points out the bar’s serving hatch and bathroom – in a past life it was a crucifix, an amazing piece of carved oak, probably at least a century old, that he found at an antiques fair. He decided its arms were arrows, and so it became a sign. Reclaimed, reworked, beautiful, and now useful again.

As you sit in the repurposed room – once a butcher’s, then a rented flat, now a bar – you realise it is a breathing incarnation of what Cal does. It’s not just about being a furniture designer, but about being an orchestrator of spaces – someone who will take another man’s junk and refashion it into something that it always had the potential to be, if only we could see it.

Items made by Cal Smith are sold at Brewer’s Bar, 77 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, London E8 2EB


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