What I Know About Style

Sam Clapp

Bower of Bliss


Sam Clapp, Pop Store at Whiteleys director, on shopping the world and hanging out in Westbourne Park Road

Do you live in west London? What inspires you about the area?

I moved out of west London about a year ago, having lived in Maida Vale for three years after university.  It was a wrench, but moving out of London has enabled me to save money to put into Pop Store. I think the variety of the people and places inspire me most about the area and all add to its character. In the mile or so from Whiteleys to Ladbroke Road there are hundreds of great shopping and food experiences to be had, from affordable to expensive.

What do like about the pop-up concept?

The concept allows us to keep fresh and bring new ideas to the table all the time. Because we are in an area for a short time we have to give the shopper an experience, hence the golden cave shop front and the panoramic wood scene inside!

I see a very diverse range of stock, from Tom Binns for Disney Couture jewellery, to dog leads, skulls and Dutch Grayson Perry-esque ceramics. As buyer for the store, what is your criteria for choosing what to stock?

Every piece in the stores – apart from being beautiful –has to have a story. We really wanted the Bower of Bliss to be a shop that creates a conversation with the customer. For example, the Best in Park dog leads are made from Italian leather and the highest quality herringbone fabric by a dog obsessive based in Australia.

What inspired the rugged, gold grotto-style store exterior?

The Bower of Bliss is a garden in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen poem where all the delights of the world are laid out to entice you. We thought walking through a golden cave to find a treasure garden would be cool.

Bower of Bliss is a treasure trove of curious items. What is your favourite single item?

Difficult one… It’s probably the Esther Derkx casserole dish. She finds antique crockery and puts a modern decal on them – the casserole dish has a Marilyn Monroe figure on it.

Do you think jewellery is a luxury or necessity?

I think for most people it is a necessity.

Where does your job take you?

We recently went to New York looking for ceramics, which was amazing. I had never been there before and was blown away by the whole city. We are going to Tokyo this year, which I’m really looking forward to too. For the fit-outs of the stores we also travel the UK reclamation yards, Somerset has been amazing for these (and for cider).

How did you get into buying?

By necessity! No one in the business had any jewellery buying experience. We started off slowly, offering a little bit in the Pop Stores and it went so well it started taking over. I get a lot of advice and pointers from trusted friends though; the buying for the store has become very democratic.

You stock jewellery collections by Tom Binns for Disney Couture Alice in Wonderland, and Mafia and Defy. What makes this jewellery unique and contemporary?

The Tom Binns for Disney Couture signature range are all handmade and only 10 have been made available in the UK. As well as lots of silver and gold, they have used acrylic and safety pins which give it an edge. The Mafia and Defy pieces are all handmade to order by a couple in Thailand. They base their jewellery on everyday items and add a twist – the brass UBS bracelet has been a real hit.

Who is your typical customer?

We haven’t quite figured it out yet, but because of the shops appearance, I think most of our customers have been inquisitive in nature. It changes daily though.

The collaboration between Disney and a serious jewellery designer may strike some people as odd. What’s your take on it?

I think because the movie Alice in Wonderland has such a dedicated and wide audience it works really well. Although the jewellery has a fun Disney edge, they are serious bits of craftsmanship that required someone of Tom Binns’ skill.

Where do you head to relax after work?

I should say the gym or something similarly healthy, but I love The Cow pub [89 Westbourne Park Road, W2], round the corner from Whiteleys, too much.

If space was no object, what else would you stock in Bower of Bliss?

Probably one of Cerith Wyn Evans’ pieces from the White Cube. I saw them in Mason’s Yard the other day and they were incredible.

Is Bower of Bliss a girl’s store? Or are there also pieces for the discerning modern man?

It’s a myth that only girls wear jewellery, we have more than a few boy regulars already. All the ceramics and the defy and mafia jewellery can be for both sexes. Duncan from Blue was in the store the other day.

When the pop-up pops down, what’s next?

We will pop-up somewhere else with a completely new store – watch this space.

Bower of Bliss, Third Floor, Whiteleys, 144 Queensway, London, W2; www.whiteleys.com

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