Claire de Rouen Books, London
You could be forgiven for missing it. Only a lonely street placard shyly announces the existence of Claire de Rouen Books on Charing Cross Road in London. But its ultra-loyal following of course know the way by heart, having come to see Claire and her pug Otis since she opened up the doors to her L-shaped first floor store above a sex shop in 2005. Specializing in photography, art and fashion publications, Claire de Rouen Books has been a Soho institution since. Lucy Moore, who took over when Claire sadly passed away last year, has also lost the nearby Central St. Martins college customers and suffered from the new Crossrail line remoulding the area’s buildings and streets. But the store – with its rare titles by premium photographers and authors – is still capable of drawing the crowds. Once you’ve found the space and climbed the narrow staircase, a world of lost treasures, beautiful images and carefully selected magazines awaits. Only a few doors down from bookstore giants Foyles and Blackwell’s, this is the kind of personal and dedicated specialist bookshop that the internet’s mass consumerism can never replace.
In the 50 square meter space, Lucy regularly organizes literary events; recent book signings have included Christian Patterson and Tim Walker. This year Claire de Rouen Books will also launch Juergen Teller’s latest title in-store, and there’s a project with German artist Christian Flamm lined up. The shop holds over 3,000 publications and Lucy’s favourite is the Eley Kishimoto-curated issue of Singapore-based Werk magazine. According to the current proprietor, Claire herself preferred challenging and difficult photo books, like the work of Antoine D’Agata. “On the other hand, she loved Bruce Weber, and I have a feeling he loved her – he still visits when in London,” she says.
Ask designer Margaret Howell to define her brand and she’ll most likely use words like functional, utilitarian, timeless and authentic to describe the clothes. These are characteristics that inform both the mainline and MHL collections. Over the years, Howell has become known for this pure and simple approach to life in general, and clothes in particular. But hers is a lifestyle brand setting the tone for more than just wardrobe staples. Howell’s devotion to this particular aesthetic obviously colours the whole company. Visit one of her London stores – the Wigmore Street HQ, the MHL shop in Shoreditch, or this newly opened store at 22 New Cavendish Street – and you’ll get a holistic 360 degree insight to Margaret Howell, the person and the brand. Just as the clothes are an extension of Margaret herself, her shops are brick and mortar versions of the brand: simple, light, versatile and modern. Although of course limited by physical dimensions, Howell’s stores boast a sense of space and light. Maybe the collection’s sparse colour palette helps create this? Or the neat merchandising and shop staff’s subtle style? Like the Wigmore Street shop, the new MHL store is deep. As you enter, you get a feeling you’re not only walking into her shop but experiencing the full might of Margaret Howell’s sublime sartorial universe.
As a follow-up to London’s first standalone MHL shop, situated on Shoreditch’s Old Nichol Street, the new Marylebone location is a 47.5 square meter space housing both the men’s and women’s MHL collections. Like all Margaret Howell shops, the New Cavendish Street store is designed by William Russell, a partner at Pentagram Design. Featuring the original parquet flooring, a wooden shop front, birch wood shelving, stainless steel fittings and bespoke lighting track, it’s moulded in the aesthetic of Howell’s Japanese MHL stores, of which she has opened ten in the last four years.