Text by Sam Pothecary / Photos Tim E White
Probably the main reason that London competes with New York as the world’s greatest shopping city is that, for every department store à la Liberty or Selfridges, there are scores of quirky independent shops. Shopping in east London isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s still the best part of town to find shops that are weird, wonderful and manned by true characters. We found five of the best – read on to meet a man called Vadim Kosmos who’ll sell you a severed head if you ask nicely...
“Nowadays, fashion is taken way too seriously – it’s supposed to be fun!” says Willa Keswick, the owner of Village Bicycle, Brick Lane’s newest, brightest and raunchiest boutique. Glamorous Willa is a London society butterfly – her father is a director of Hong Kong conglomerate Jardines and is said to be worth £1.75 billion (NOK16.8 billion), though Willa says she hasn’t taken a penny from him.
She first opened Village Bicycle in Notting Hill in 2011 after her previous venture, an eponymous Mayfair nightclub designed as a “debauched country house”, closed down. “But Notting Hill’s losing its old vibe,” she complains of the west London area. “Kensington’s posh ambience is taking over.” So just a few months ago, she took her Village Bicycle across town to east London, selling an eclectic range of gifts and clothes that are a mix of retro, eccentric and naughty. You can also grab a quick pedicure, get some diamonds in your teeth or visit “Santa’s naughty grotto” if you go in December. “This is the shop I always wanted to open,” says Willa.