What inspired you to open a concept store which enables designers to rent their own space?
SC: Having worked in fashion and art for some time now, both of us realised how difficult it is for creative people, in fashion and design in particular, to get noticed as well as develop their businesses. We identified a gap in the marketplace for both totally unknown as well as relatively well known designers and came up with this concept. Inside the rental fee, there is so much more on offer, from mentoring and guidance to business advising. Plus, Wolf & Badger enables designers to test out parts of the collection they are very passionate about, collecting the direct customer feedback as well as having a direct access to their customer base. It is not dissimilar approach to what I have developed with my gallery where every collector acts as a patron of the artist they support.
The launch party was packed and the media support has been huge [Fashionista hailed W&B as ‘fashion’s new godparents’, for example]. Were you expecting this level of response?
SC: We always knew we’d created something that has got great potential and that is much needed in the current marketplace. However, to be hailed as the ‘fashion’s new godparents’ is very flattering and encouraging. It is nice to have the positive reaction from both the industry experts as well as the design community as a whole. However our job has only begun and there is so much more we can do to help foster and mentor these creatives. Wolf & Badger also acts as a stepping stone to help designers launch their own flagship stores and it still disappoints me when talented designers say to me that they’d love to be involved with us but their exclusive arrangements with some of the major retailers prevent them from doing so. We should not be in competition with each other at the expense of young designers.
How do you choose which designers to showcase?
ZK: We are very selective in terms of who we invite to come into the store. They have to have original, design-led products or be interesting in terms of their business model. The most important thing is that they must have the wow factor.
Why did you choose Ledbury Road for the store’s location?
SC: Mainly because of its neighbourhood, the tradition and culture of buying high-end and luxury goods and the fact that despite the recession, restaurants are still packed out and people are shopping. We just felt that the buying power, celebrity endorsers, fashion and design magazine editors as well as a very international crowd is still predominately in and around Notting Hill. All these factors are extremely important to us in order to ensure that our designers do well and earn a lot more than they are paying to us in rent.
The shop looks cool. Who designed the interior?
SC: The interior design concept was designed by Gus Brown, a recent architecture graduate of the Royal College of Art, who worked very closely with creative director Zoe Knight. The fit-out was undertaken by a skilled team of joiners, DHJ Furniture, who previously fitted out the flagship McQueen store previously, although all specification work was undertaken by Gus Brown.
Samir, how do you think your background in art has influenced the store?
Even though it is slightly different business model in terms of risk/reward formula, there are many parallels; the most obvious one being nurturing and supporting young talent in the creative field.
Zoe, how has your experience as a handbag designer helped you support other designers?
Having had my own luxury handbag label which I stocked at the same luxury department stores and boutiques as some of the designers means I can help in terms of pitfalls to avoid and also help with ways in which to grow their businesses at a realistic rate. For those designers who are newer to the business my background in fashion and the luxury industry in general can help, from styling tips to manufacturing guidance, pricing and editing their collection. And as a creative director, I totally understand creative minds.
Tell us a little about a few of the designers you’re working with?
ZK: We are very excited about many designers but to name a few we feel strongly about would be Tosha, a very strong feminine womenswear collection; Tomasz, a mens’ and womenswear jeweller, using various precious stones, metals and horsehair and Olanic, a Scottish womenswear designer whose sexy, flirty collection is already a hit with many celebrities.
What should we be buying now?
ZK: For women, any piece by Tosha and a Vanessa Kandiyoti evil eye diamond necklace. For men, all the great colours of Huxley’s knitwear and Carréducker’s bespoke shoes, and for children, a sweet little dress by Poppy with a knitted jacket to match. For the home a Jasmin Rowlandson, and a set of bite plates by Evthokia.
You’ve only just launched W&B, but can you tell us about any future plans – what’s next?
SC: The waiting list is getting longer and longer. We have incredibly talented designers, from both the UK and aboard, approaching us in the hope that they’ll be selected for the next starting dates from 1 May 2010. We would like to think that we will see the north England store open by the end of the year as well as the New York one too. We are aspiring to create an internationally recognised brand by launching W&B in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris, Milan and a number of other intentional destinations. It is not a secret that we are very ambitious and that we want to make a real impact and a real difference through this concept.