I think I doth protest too much against going out West as though it were the cliched thing for a vaguely East/North-orientated London person to be anti-West London. I do like it ONCE I get out there. It's the journey stretching west beyond Knightsbridge that seems to take its toll. Especially when the Central line plays up.
Once ensconced into the lovely cocoon of Notting Hill though, I do slap myself for not coming over more often. I find that the ivy-covered white houses, the abundance of electric cars and food delis suck me in just a little bit. Now, coupled with a growing barrage of shops that entice me off the Porbello Road market trail, there's even more reason for me to stop this "North rocks, East is the tits" malarky.
Couverture isn't new at all but has shifted quite a bit in its scope of brands with the last few years being the first to bring some of my New York faves such as Rachel Comey and Tom Scott to these shores. It always seems to astound me how some of my more quiet designer loves of New York Fashion Week never seem to make it over to the UK. Rachel Comey for example is fairly established in New York with her shoes gathering quite the diehard cult following but no one in the UK apart from Couverture have taken her under their retail wing. Boo.
Their selection of designers results in rails and merchandising of pretty clothes that are mild-mannered in an interesting way if that makes any sense. I say mild-mannered only because the shapes are easy-to-handle but look closely and little quirks shine through be it through a particular print or a bit of embroidery. Blended in with Couverture's interiors selection as well as childrenswear (with menswear store Garbstore down the stairs) and you have yourself quite a lifestyle overview. It's the sort of lifestyle where vintage-inspired detailing, an appreciation for interesting colour palettes and textiles come through quite heavily. A felt tip pen sitting next to a pair of shoes with a scarf and a rag doll next to it makes for an endearing display where any one of those items could quite easily be bagged up. The aesthetic across the soft furnishing selection impinges upon the clothing selection but it never veers too far into yummy mummy chintz territory.
Like I said, I squealed a bit to see Tom Scott on a shop rail in the UK but then again, Topshop have also recently started to stock a few pieces in their EMERGE collection so perhaps the tide is changing.
I discovered interesting print pieces by Ikou Tschuss as well as Mina Perhonen. that fit into the interior-to-clothing transition mould well.
Slipper brands seem to be emerging from left right and centre for us to lap onto this ballet-flat alternative, but I love the look of these Charles Philip blue leopard print ones.
I've forgotten who the designer is but I thought these four leaf clover hair clips sum up the charming pleasantries of Couverture.
Couverture's website has just launched with what I think is a full selection of stock. Rachel Comey's bits and bobs obviously rank highly on the imaginary wants list. as well as a Jeffrey Monteiro's print parka and of course, Tom Scott's lattice lurex top.
Down the road and round the corner and we've into a newer and perhaps, much-shouted about venture. Well you can't exactly forget a name like Village Bicycle but that is what owner Willa Keswick has chosen to go with for her new concept store venture, inspired by 60s legend of a shop, Granny Takes a Trip. People will throw around comparisons to colette and certainly aspects such as the Japanalia-stuffed Wonder Wall – all pink neon, candy, anime action figures and eye-grabbing accessories by Lulu Guiness and Olympia Le Tan – bear certain similarities to the Parisian super store. Keswick has also cleverly fulfilled the ¬£2-¬£2000 price range that hopefully will lure people in to hang out on the couches, sip a Red Bull and perhaps pick up a trinket or two. Still, the selection for now is slightly kitsch-cultish – Tripp NYC jeans in super bright colours, Leger-esque bandage skirts covered with hearts, shoes by labels that range from mid-range Senso to haute Raphael Young. Mark Fast, Felder Felder and soon, Craig Lawrence will fill the upper brackets of the store's fashion offering.
When I visited, I was still coming down from my Tokyo-trip high so having this amount of kawaii (cool kawaii as opposed to cute kawaii) was like reliving aspects of the city. Testament to that, every customer that was in there at the time kept on exclaiming how "cool" everything was and by my assessment, they looked to be some jaded seen-it-all sort of gals. I'm looking forward to see how this hive of cool develops as Keswick promises this is just the beginning with a content-driven website on its way (as well as e-commerce), regular exhibitions (currently Scream gallerist Tyrone Wood has curated all the artwork) and more designers for next season.
Just as the four leaf clover clip sums up Couverture, perhaps these smiley faced condom lollipops will do the same for Village Bicycle, without meaning to be crude about it. Or perhaps the crudeness is just want we're after at for this very non-Notting Hill set-up.