House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Rabih Hage

The designer discovers a new, underground Soho

Rabih Hage

November 11 2010
Rabih Hage

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

It was one of those Wednesdays: middle of a week, lost between the enthusiasm of the Monday and the navigation towards the weekend like a breathless swimmer crawling towards the edge of the pool. Not that I don’t like work and action; I’m just more wishing that the cycle of parties that has started unexpectedly would end. I did have a soft start to the day at my studio, but I had the idea in the back of my mind that something big was going to happen this day. It came late that night, when I feel I discovered the real Soho.

In the afternoon I met Kevin, the nicest person on the south side of the river, a fine man who owns the last proper warehouse with character in Battersea. We were discussing organising a design show, and maybe more, in his fantastic building. After this meeting I headed straight to Rupert Sanders, 19 Bruton Place, who is letting out part of his space for the pop-up House of Voltaire, a charity-cum-art gallery-cum-artist studio. It was very crowded, with beautiful people and art. To my eyes it was more of a social gathering of a newly-formed tribe. And I was very impressed by the viral marketing that this event has accomplished. I heard about it from five different sources – that’s amazing PR!

On my way, I discovered SHOWstudio, another office-cum-gallery where the approach is showing the entire creative process from concept to completion, mixing art and fashion. What’s happening with these guys? Why can’t anyone be satisfied with one genre or field of expertise? I didn’t realise so many others were enjoying cross-border activities. The future is about mixity! That was the first revelation of the day.

My friend Nanette Lepore and her sister Michelle are in town. They’re very fun and interesting to spend time with, and I want to entertain them while they’re here.

So following the House of Voltaire, I picked them up and we headed straight to the Wapping Project, where my friend Martin Raymond, from the Future Laboratory, was launching his new book, The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook. It was unanimously voted that evening to be “the best text on the subject since his last one”. It was a great party, with a nice selection of opinion-makers and creatives, among them the fantastic Jon Carney, from the agency Marvellous. Chris Sanderson, the other half of the Future Lab, was there, and together with James Wallman was a great host. It was all spectacular – particularly the very tall Olivia von Halle, who has started a new lingerie company. I really want to be there at her next collection launch.

After dinner at Moro in Exmouth Street, we ended up being dragged by Jon Carney, who has a great sense of humour, to the New Evaristo Club at 57 Greek Street. This was the culmination of the evening, and my discovery of the real Soho. The abyss between beauty and imperfection, which until now has been my life’s search... To reach the abyss, you had to go down a narrow, shabbily carpeted staircase. At basement level you discover a weird world of the Wednesday-night jazz-rock aficionados preserved in alcohol and smoke, just like fine meat. I really don’t know how to describe this place: maybe, “beautiful-ugliness” with great Italian memorabilia scattered all around the green room. You have to see it to believe it, or maybe to become a convert. But one thing is sure: there is a sophisticated underworld in Soho.

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