When a customer comes into Polly Leonard’s Selvedge Drygoods store in Highgate, north London, more often than not there’s a far-flung destination involved. Most of the international clientele are subscribers to Leonard’s iconic tome Selvedge, a compendium of the best textiles and textile-makers around the world, and devoted readers make a pilgrimage to Leonard’s store when they’re in the UK.
Indeed, Leonard admits there is little or no passing traffic at the rather unglamorous spot on busy Archway Road – chosen to house both the magazine and the “upmarket haberdashery” store because it is right next to her house. But that does not stop Selvedge Drygoods’ significant following: buyers come from Australia and the US, Japan, Scandinavia and central Europe to see and buy the textiles they have read about in the magazine. And an added lure for long-term readers is that they get to meet the editorial team and Leonard herself.
Each of the store finds is first profiled in Selvedge’s editorial. “[Appreciating textiles] is a kind of way of looking at the world,” says Leonard. “Textile stories are in all cultures, because they link so intricately to humanity. We feature the most fascinating makers.” And often obscure ones, too. After all, it was the repeated requests about where to buy the goods that led to the idea of the store. First Leonard offered a few items by mail-order, but the enquiries kept coming.
Now the shop is an emporium of the work of the best international textile crafters, such as Sophie Digard, whose crocheted scarves (£160-£295) feature delicate flowers or graphic shapes. Other highlights include children’s dresses and adults’ scarves by Pero’s Aneeth Arora (from £185), who creates outfits inspired by traditional dressing in rural India, and patterned blankets by Eleanor Pritchard (from £179.95). Crucially, almost all of the work is made by hand.
Leonard also offers inspiration for personal creative endeavours, with a range of haberdashery offerings, such as high-quality linen thread (£5.95), Liberty-print binding (£2.95 per metre) and cashmere-crepe yarn from Japanese/American textile studio Habu (£12.95).
It’s not a shop about price tags, but it does have a strong ethos, says Leonard, who studied textiles at Glasgow and Penn State universities, and also spent a number of years teaching before setting up the magazine. “We advise our customers to really think about their purchases, even coming back if they need to, so that they are buying an item they feel is absolutely divine and that they’ll always love as much as the day they bought it.”