December 01 2009
Lucia van der Post
Whenever I find myself in New York there are three stores I always check out: Williams-Sonoma, Crate & Barrel and Anthropologie. All three have something quintessentially American about them, and they never fail to deliver something special – Williams-Sonoma is quite simply the coolest kitchen chain in the world; Crate & Barrel has the sort of stunning value that I don’t find in homeware over here; and Anthropologie – well, something about it just makes me feel so happy whenever I’m in its downtown SoHo branch. The good news is that while Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel remain resolutely stateside, Anthropologie has arrived in London, bringing with it its charm and a carefully edited selection of its wares.
For those who don’t know Anthropologie, conveying its essence isn’t easy. I always think it has something rather gentle and slightly New-Agey about it, which no doubt accounts for the fact that I always feel so lighthearted inside its stores. Each one is unique – Anthropologie in the Mid-West sells very different merchandise from the Manhattan branch, and managers and buyers are encouraged to tailor-make stores to suit not just the local customers’ tastes but the geography of the site and the town too. Another thing I like is the mix; besides sweaters, coats, dresses and fashion accessories there is a range of homeware, furniture and a good injection of one-off antiques sourced from around the world too. Yet everything is all of a piece – if the sweaters and dresses are to your taste, so too will be the jewellery, furniture, glassware, doorknobs and tableware.
For the Regent Street store (pictured), James Bidwell, the managing director of Anthropologie Europe, has commissioned some pieces from local designers – Eley Kishimoto, for instance, has produced a capsule fashion collection based on playful prints – and the company has collaborated with Patrice Jewelry and interior designers Clarke & Reilly to come up with unique lines specially for this store. There is an interesting selection of South African wares – vibrant and striking chandeliers by Mud Studio and recycled ones by Magpie, an arts collective, which will range in price from £1,000 to £5,000, as well as ceramics of every kind. Some of the antique pieces include a 1900 Post Office table with sliding top (£2,500), a plaster of a bear from the Berlin Zoo circa 1800 (£8,000) and an 1860s easel (£1,500), as well as a selection of French armoires (about £10,000). Prices start as low as £2.50 for a baby latte bowl and £18 for a hair accessory. When it comes to clothing, sweaters are from £68, dresses from £88.
The Regent Street store is clearly kicking off what is intended to be a major European venture. Another branch is set to open next year in the old Antiquarius building in Chelsea’s King’s Road. Those who haven’t yet discovered the eclectic Anthropologie magic are in for a real treat.