Mendo is not your average bookshop. For a start, shoppers at the central-Amsterdam address, sandwiched in the Nine Streets between the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, aren’t expected to buy anything. Instead, they perch on the red, padded seats in the architecturally designed store, leafing through some of the most extraordinary art and fashion books published today – from Vivienne Westwood’s super‑large, limited-edition Opus (around €2,000), to the David LaChapelle XL limited-edition 2006 Artists & Prostitutes (from €3,000). Though “leaf” is perhaps not the best word, given that some of these books can weigh 17kg and measure 70cm high or more (as is the case with Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf’s Own, from €1,500).
But the quiet library feel of the dusky space is fine with owners Roy Rietstap and Joost Albronda. Graphic designers by trade, they run Mendo with passion and devotion. The LaChapelle in question, for example, is no longer for sale, but remains in the shop. “It’s a part of the store. We won’t sell it because people visit just to see it,” says Albronda. Indeed, one couple with homes in London and Amsterdam regularly pay homage to the LaChapelle, and to Taschen’s limited-edition Mohammed Ali tome GOAT (Greatest of All Time), numbered and signed by Ali and artist Jeff Koons (€4,000).
Browsers aside, sales are brisk and growing – aided not just by the trend in XL and limited-edition fashion and art books, but by Rietstap and Albronda’s expertise, which is a draw for their international clientele, who buy “either for investment, or for love”. Mendo was founded in 2002, with third partner Joeri Worm, when the designers had difficulty finding the books they were looking for in their native country and beyond. Although the shop only features 500 books at any one time, turnover is swift and the stock favours volumes as diverse as Dogs in Vogue (€60); the new Marilyn Monroe title from Taschen, Marilyn & Me (€750, although there is also a special edition with an original photo, €1,750); photographer Todd Selby’s The Selby in Your Place (€30), featuring his sneak-peek interiors; and Rietstap’s current favourite, Alber Elbaz, Lanvin (€340), which celebrates the designer’s work at the fashion label.
Lovers themselves of the feel and design of each book they showcase, Rietstap and Albronda have also branched out online. Their webshop – opened to concur with their store-within-a-hotel at the new London CitizenM on Bankside – has been nominated for a Dutch Design Award. Albronda believes that, far from a reaction against digital media, the growth in art and design publications has been helped by the electronic form. “With these images on screen,” he says, “people have a wider reach than before. And they know how much more beautiful the pictures are going to be in a book.”