We had a shop
The shop was an accident. The original plan was to find a reasonably accessible venue for the Library–somewhere designers would want to come and hang out and get inspired–so naturally, we were drawn by the temptation of ground floor storefront premises. When we found the building in Great Sutton Street, which the landlord wouldn't split, we took it and expanded our ambitions to match.
The initial brief was to find things we could sell that somehow matched our objective of telling a more modern story about printing. A store is the very best way to get across an idea–it can be both simple and complex at the same time and the environment and the proucts can really immerse people in a point-of-view.
The store was barren at first–there wasn't much we could buy–but it slowly expanded as more and more designers and producers started to make the things we wanted to sell. Our idea was to promote the creative merit of real things in the burgeoning digital world (though I thought it was going to burgeon a whole lot faster than it did, but hey). As well as being one of the first concept stores in London, we inadvertantly introduced a number of global trends to London–graffitti / urban art, Japanese collectable figures and a general fascination with ephemeral cultural artifacts that commonplace in every big city in the world.
It was hard work though. Only the most determined shopper made the trek out to Clerkenwell. As the market blossomed, with more and more products becoming available, we struggled to keep and the general lack of funds meant we weren't able to buy the stuff we'd like to have done–underlined when we moved into Selfridges and were the busiest department with the lowest item value.
It was clear we weren't seasoned retailers and although we'd made the difficult bit–moving the brand from a trade printer to cutting-edge retailer–effortless, we weren't resourced or poised to reap what we sewed and later on, others like Magma, Playlounge, Pictures-on-walls and Steve Lazarides soon came into the space we'd opened up. Personally, I lost a huge amount of money and the experience left me burned emotionally and financially, although I realise that it was really only a lack of confidence in the concept and its lasting value wasn't clear to see in 2003 when it closed.
Here's some pictures...