One of my favorite things to do is to shop for presents. Its the perfect antidote to shopping for yourself when you know you cant afford it, there’s no guilt attached, and London is the perfect city in which to find that unique little something. Say goodbye to John Lewis and Accessorize, and get yourself down to these little blighters (as they say in cockney slang)
Magma product shop
In the heart of the city centre, nestled amongst bikes, tourists and steakhouses, is Earlham Street. Filled with an eclectic mix of independent shops, skater brands and smaller market stalls, it is also host to Magma bookshop (number eight) and its sister product shop (number sixteen). Every designers dream, its a perfect place to pick up an unusual gift or card, or a bag for yourself if you’re feeling generous. I love the laid back casualness of the shop, and the unpretentious feel. Its also a great place to browse without the pressure of buying anything. As quoted from their website, We think that there is something extremely rich and dynamic in the notion that people, all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, are walking through our doors on a daily basis, looking for something, not always sure as to what they are looking for. I can certainly vouch for this, as I strolled in a couple of weeks ago only to walk out 15 minutes later with a pack of plastic cups decorated with animal noses (when you drink from them, you can choose which nose you want to have! exciting stuff). Think Eboy posters, pinhole camera making kits, cardboard boom boxes and the legendary people will always need plates kitchenware sets here for your viewing and buying pleasure. Even more exciting than animal nose cups is the environmentally friendly Magma decor – the entire shop is kitted out in treated cardboard flat pack shelving systems and counter tops, which are backlit to create a warm glow around each of their lovely products. Definitely one to put a smile on your face after battling through the crowds of tourists.
This little shop has a definite place in my heart. If you pay a visit on Bacon Street (just off Brick Lane) on a Sunday afternoon, you’re in for a treat. After curating and organizing the very first exhibition there (they currently have an excellent calendar of exhibitions and events in the basement project space), I fell in love with the French flea market charm of the vintage shop and small cafe upstairs. They literally travel around their home country of France collecting items from flea markets and jumble sales, and bringing them back to the UK to add to the already beautiful collection of diverse pieces. I particularly loved the strange opera masks, vintage motorbike and stunning recycled vases from Guatemala. Both of their warmth and friendliness makes for an open community feel made up of artists, designers and friends. Go and grab a cup of tea, have a chat, check out the exhibitions downstairs and try on some of the handmade clothes in the bizarre but fascinating interior. Theres no place quite like it.
Tatty Devine is a brilliant jewellery shop situated at the top of Brick Lane (Gibralter walk). Originally dreamt up by fine art students, the creative pair have collaborated with the likes of Gilbert & George and Chicks on Speed as well as designing pieces for the V&A. Yes thats right, although Tatty Devine do stock in many other retailers, the original store and workshop is in the heart of the east end, but tucked away on the other side of the popular Brick Lane, it can be easy to miss. Just cross over Bethnal Green Road and walk slightly up what looks like a residential street and youre there. Inspired by 1950s Americana and good old fashioned rock & roll, its a great place to stock up on fat necklaces on long chains for either yourself or your friends. Although it is on the slightly expensive side (over £30 for a necklace), the graphic designs are well worth the money and you can get hold of some amazing rings for under a tenner. My favourites at the moment are the Jigsaw Rose pendants, parcel bow necklace and incredibly kitsch cat bangle (hint hint nudge nudge).