Thursday, 30 June 2011

Step into the Darkside

Welcome in to Darkroom, a concept boutique situated in the heart of Bloomsbury, London. Explore everything from interior, unique accessories, sculptures to magazines. You will find an eclectic mix of 60 different labels, from unknown emerging designers to established high end brands. The brand portfolio includes Fleet Llila, Jonathan Saunders, Scott Wilson and Florian. Darkroom is also stocking Maria Francesca Pepe´s line of jewellery, which is one of the designers VFS has showcased through the years.

The concept is built on a cross between fashion and art, showcased in unconventional contexts. Darkroom aims to stretch the boundaries between art and design and remove the gap by displaying functional objects as a pieces of art.

VFS decided to go and have a look for ourselves and of course share with our friends and family, meaning you guys. We sat down one rainy afternoon in June and had a chat with the charming Lulu Roper-Caldbeck, the founder and owner, together with her business partner Rhonda Drakeford.

What is the concept behind Darkroom and how did the business start?
The idea is to specialise in accessories for men, women and the home. Our products are generally hard to find anywhere else and unique to us. Me and my business partner Rhonda, was working on a home textile project together and started to look for a space where we could showcase our products. We found this beautiful venue in Bloomsbury and decided to expand our business with other brands and designers. So we started to develop our idea and we ended up with the concept you see today, Darkroom.

Who is the main Darkroom customer?
We started of by expecting customers in our own age, but has with time seen a very large age span, everything from students in their twenties from Central Saint Martins Art College which is located only a few minutes away, to the local pensioner in their seventies. The interest in art, fashion and interior is what combines them. The area, Bloomsbury, attracts mixed individuals and personalities. You can find law offices on one street parallel to a street with independent boutiques in the creative industry, it is a mix of high and low.

What is the price point of your products?
The price point is as wide as our product range. We have products on a low entry level, a customer can get stationary pieces for 10 pounds but can also find interior with a price tag of 800 pounds. We want everyone to be able to be a part of Darkroom, that is why we have this wide price architecture.

What kind of pieces do your customer tend to buy?
Our own line with cushions has been a big seller. We also design one-off vintage pieces and interior accessories that goes in line with the new Darkroom aesthetic. Looking at the jewellery, the fantasy and imagination inspired pieces from Florian has been really popular.

What are you looking for when acquiring new designers to your store?
We come up with a theme each season which guides us when looking for new designers. Our theme for the summer is ”Astec Camera” which refers to the Aztec Indian culture of South America. Geometrical shapes, pom poms and metal brass and copper is seen in our current product range. We get a lot of designer popping in to the store and showing their portfolio and we take it from there.

We prefer to buy small quantities of a large number of designers instead of buying masses, that is one of the core beliefs of the business.

We also visit a large number of trade fares in Paris, to spot new designers. Rhonda and me are together head of buying, actually head of everything that involves Darkroom, says Lulu and laughs.

What are your terms and conditions of buying from a designer?
It various depending on the product and designer. We tend to have jewellery designers on consignment for a couple of seasons. As we are not working with only fashion, that is a highly seasonal product, we usually work with sell and return for a longer period than a season.

What are your future plans for Darkroom?
We are trying to push our own ranges and develop them even further. We are now producing the major part in the UK but is seeking other European producers. The online sales is also an important part of the future, therefore we are constantly trying to build it up.

What inspired you for the store interior?
We wanted to keep the interior black, which frames our products well. As our products are made in different textures, colours and materials we thought it would work well together with shiny black cubes. The cubes are also freestanding which makes it easy to adjust and change for each season theme.

Finally, what are you playing in store right now?
The album is called Memory Tapes.

For more information, please visit their website here.

Contact Details

T: +44 (0)20 7831 7244

Supplier enquiries

General enquiries

By Yohanna Mannelqvist

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Not Just A label gives impressions about Selection Panel

With the eyes now looking at September 2011 and after  Selection Panel was held we can see the excitement rising up. Many calls coming in and some coming out to get everything arranged for next season.  Results will be soon unveiled.

As well we wondered what impressions did the judging panel had about what happen during Selection Panel, for that reason we interviewed Stefan Siegel from Not Just A Label to know more about his insights, and what the fashion´s black sheep thinks.

VFS: Which is your general perception from the Selection Panel?
NJAL: I think it is important that the selection is made by external experts in order to give the designers a feeling there are no politics involved.

VFS: Was it difficult to analyze and go through the collections?
NJAL: It is always hard to make a decision when you are effectively impacting a young and creative business.

VFS: Which were the criteria you used to make the selection?
NJAL: I disregarded everything which was not purely design related. Creativity, professionalism and quality were my key criteria.

VFS: You in NJAL support pioneers, can you higlight any aspect you founded pioneering or any concept you picked on?
NJAL: Vauxhall Fashion scout is moving ahead and I think that is pioneering. Just wait to see.

VFS: Can you give any advice to designers regarding september or future seasons?
NJAL: Create, don't imitate!

VFS: Can you draw a brief sketch of what we can see on september?
NJAL: Why would I want to spoil the surprise? We chose some fantastic designers, watch this space!

Some advices, some insights and building the excitement. Quite complete! Thank you so much.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Village Bicycle. Young minded and free spirit individuals will fall in love.

Willa Keswick opened the doors to her new lifestyle boutique in Notting Hill in March. Village Bicycle is her first project in the fashion industry after moving on from her Mayfair club ”Willa”, that closed down last year. 

Vauxhall Fashion Scout review this store for young minded customer who still love superman and pray to neon crosses. To curb our curiosity, we decided to have a chat with Willa.

What is the concept behind Village Bicycle and how did the business start?
I registered the name of the store The Village Bicycle when I was fifteen. The concept behind The Village Bicycle was essentially to bring a new offering to Notting Hill, I wanted to create an environment where people felt inspired which would eventually become a destination.

What brands do you carry?
There are so many varied brands at the store including; Felder Felder, Mark Fast, Hannah Warner, Daisy Knights, Craig Lawrence and Style Stalker. We also have a few exclusives including Senso Diffusion and Tripp Jeans in addition to The Village Bicycle collaborations, we’re launching a brand new diffusion line with Craig Lawrence which is really exciting.

How would you describe you typical customer/target market? (Lifestyle, age, style, occupation, personality etc)
I’d say that our typical customer would be someone who doesn’t take themselves or fashion too seriously, open minded and someone who likes to have fun. I don’t think age or profession really comes into it but as long as they’re young in mind and spirit they’ll find something to fall in love with.
What is the price point of your products? (price range)
The price point varies from  £2 - £2,500 so there’s something for everyone 
What kind of pieces do your customer tend to buy? 
Generally I think most people buy accessories as a really quick and easy to update their wardrobes but also separates are quite popular particularly the Tripp jeans!
What and where are you looking for when acquiring new brands/designers? How can a new designer gain you interest?
I am always on the lookout for new and exciting brands to work with, I'm just like a magpie! if I see a hot girl looking amazing I have no shame in asking her wear she’s got her outfit from. Also, I’m always looking at interesting street style blogs, magazines.
What are you terms of buying from a designer? Do they sell on commission or do you buy their collections etc?
It completely depends on the designer, if they are just starting out it is usually a good idea to sell on a sale or return basis to test the product with our clientele. But it really does depend on the designer.

Who is head of buying? Who should a interested designer contact?
I am very involved in the buying process at the end of the day I make the final edit however I have a great team, but I’d say get in touch and through The Village Bicycle website and I’ll take it from there.
How are you connected to and what function will that have for the business?
The website is called IMAVILLAGEBICYCLE.COM and it’s amazing! Alice Kodell is the web editor and she has created this incredible E-Zine. In the E-Zine it will have everything from videos featuring the likes of Rosie Huntington –Whiteley and Eliza Doolittle to music compiled by music editor Mel Blatt. The website will also be fully E-commerse allowing customers all around the world to buy the items available within the store.
You are stocking designers such as Bodyamr, which has showcased with Vauxhall Fashion Scout, how important is it to support emerging designers vs selling more established designers?
It’s really important to me that I work with emerging talent as well as more established brands. I love the feeling of working with a new brand and taking a risk because I want my customers to come into the store knowing that they’ll find things which they won’t find anywhere else.
What are the future plans for Village Bicycle?
I have so many plans for The Village Bicycle, I want to collaborate with more brands there may be an exciting collaboration with Felder Felder in September. I’m launching the leather range which again is really exciting.
Your boutique is located in Notting Hill, is there any specific reason for the location?
I’ve grown up in Notting Hill so I’ve always been fond of the area. However shopping wise, I felt intimidated by some of the stores and felt that there needed to be something which catered to a slightly younger demographic which is something that The Village Bicycle brings.
What is the inspiration for the store design and interior?
I get inspired by everything from films to art galleries however the film Romeo and Juliet by Baz Lurhman inspired the walls with all the neon crosses and the wonder wall is inspired by a trip to Toy Land in Tokyo and I worked with a brilliant company Saucy Cow who helped to source all of the pieces.

What artists/songs are on the playlist in the store?
There is such a real mixture, our music editor Mel Blatt has great taste when it comes to music and her taste is really varied. I’d say you could be listening to a bit of reggae one minute and hip hop the next – visit where you can download some of our exclusive playlists.

The Village Bicycle
79-81 Ledbury Road
W11 2AG 
020 7313 9031

Yohanna Mannelqvist
Pics: The Village Bicycle

Monday, 27 June 2011

Selection Panel. The very beginning for september.

Selection Panel judging. Was a hard job!

VFS kids helping around. We were wondering if we could take something home.

And the day arrived, last Tuesday Vauxhall Fashion Scout held the Selection Panel where the designers for September´s London Fashion Week were selected.
Around 50 collections were scrutinised by the judging panel who were amazed by the quality of the work and the design skills. 
Quality, creativity and innovation in the fabrics and in the construction were some of the criteria analysed in deciding on the designer selection. It was a tough job as there were many collections to look through, with cohesive collections and strong business plans. 
The highly anticipated Merit Award Winner, Ones To Watch and Ones To Watch MEN winners were selected and we can secretly say that this September is something to look forward to!
On hand to lend expertise and industry advice were Jessica Bumpus from, Stefan from Not Just A Label, Melanie Rickie from Grazia to name a few. 
Soon the results will be unveiled, and we will introduce each designer with an exclusive interview and soon to be announced schedule for this coming London Fashion Week.
The event was sponsored by Hi Sushi, who provided specially prepared concept dishes for the panel to sample.
It was a day full of job to do and important decisions to make, but the great mood and the creativity of the designs helped out to cheer up the ambiance. The results will be unveiled soon, but from the office we can confess this September is going to be super interesting and with a hint of difference. 

As always, leading innovation. Wait to see.