April 23 2010
Lucia van der Post
One thing about recessions – they concentrate the mind no end. Retailers know that, however charming the contents, just opening a shop doesn’t cut it any more. They have to offer something different or special.
What this tends to mean is that we get what is now known as the “concept” store. Gallery owner Samir Ceric and handbag designer Zoe Knight’s concept store, Wolf & Badger, does indeed seem to be doing something different. They’ve taken a smallish shop in a fashionable area of London (Notting Hill) and turned it into a place where some of the best design talents around can showcase their wares. The idea behind Wolf & Badger is to offer a selection of designers that changes every three months so that any time a customer comes in they won’t quite know what to expect – all they’d know is that it would certainly be interesting and would probably bring to their attention work they wouldn’t otherwise come across.
Designers can rent a space from them for as little as £55 a week, which buys them not just a place to sell their wares but also a page of their own on Wolf & Badger’s e-commerce site and lots of commercial nous and support from the two founders. They also get to keep 90 per cent of the profit they make. The other innovative idea behind Wolf & Badger is that it should spread across the design disciplines – fashion, jewellery, interior design, tableware, lamps and ceramics.
So what might you find? My eye was caught by Carréducker’s men’s Winkers shoes. Founded by Deborah Carré and James Ducker, who both trained with Paul Wilson, a master shoemaker at John Lobb (Ducker first learned his shoemaking craft in Barcelona), they offer all the usual classic lines (Oxfords, loafers, boots); but it was the Winkers line (second picture) that had pride of place. Carréducker describes these as “English-made louche classics – idea for in-flight, pool or beachside”. Using tweeds designed by Kirsty McDougall and Guy Hills for Dashing Tweeds, they’re a quirky, modern take on a driving shoe, or the old-fashioned slip-on monogrammed velvet slippers worn by the county set. You choose your tweed and they’re made to order (£275).
Wendy Stevens’ handbags are things of great beauty, made from stainless steel. She also uses other metals and leather for some of the components. All are made by hand in her own workshops near Philadelphia. They are sleek, shiny, beautifully wrought and quite different from the usual run of “It” bags. They come small and almost minimalist, they come round, oval and square; prices range from £150 to £485 (first picture: Bib bag, £410).
But there are lots of other designers worth checking out – I loved Carri Vacik’s jewellery, great gorgeous gemstones, interestingly set (£2,400-£4,500; third picture, Ishtar cocktail ring, £4,500), and Chelsea Rebelle’s delicious clothing (from £98 to £745). There’s also another wonderful menswear brand – Hentsch Man, which does some fabulous shirts (from £85 to £110) as well as trousers, travelling bags, brilliant hats, boxer shorts.
The snag, of course, is that it is just one small shop, but all the designers are shown on the website and everything can be bought online. There are ambitious plans to expand, too – first to Manchester and later to New York, LA, Paris, Milan and elsewhere. In the meantime, designers who feel they’ve got something original and interesting to sell and nowhere to sell it should apply to Wolf & Badger. Be warned – the selection process is rigorous.