Darkroom, is a very modern boutique. Placed on Lambs Conduit Street it’s monochrome interior expertly filled with the most eclectic and almost unreachable accessories for man, woman and home.
Founded by duo Rhonda Drakeford and Lulu Roper-Caldbeck the unique store holds rare pieces largely inspired by Africa that push boundaries between art and design.
Twin spoke to Rhonda, who explained the mysterious, yet hellishly exciting concept that brings majestic product, fit for a museum, to our homes…
Can you describe Darkroom in three words?
Bold, Crafted, Design… arrgh, that’s a hard question!
How do you go about seeking new brands/designs and keeping the store’s content so original?
We tend to steer clear of known designer brands, unless there’s something in the accessories part of a collection that really stands out, and isn’t already well represented in London — We prefer to source more off the beaten track, so we literally scour the world, [and its tradeshows!], mixing London finds by graduates and lesser known designers with pieces sourced anywhere from Africa to Australia, Brazil to Belgium…
A lot of product in the store is African-influenced, why is this?
I’ve been collecting African fabrics for many years, and before we started Darkroom, I developed a signature range of cushions made from my archives of wax print fabrics that I wholesaled to places like Liberty etc. This was something that was also brought into the Darkroom aesthetic when we were developing that, and has proved really successful here, which is great.
We really like the way the vibrancy of the textiles and colour palettes found in Africa work so well alongside contemporary Western design. The contrast really creates a dialogue between all the products we present.
Can you tell us about any particularly interesting products you stock?
We love to present pieces that use an unexpected process or material — one of the best examples is the series of poufs by Dutch designer Chrstien Meindertsma. She uses jumbo thick felted wool, and hand knits them with needles the size of broomsticks!
What’s your favourite piece?
I’ve just ordered one of these amazing bags by Nigerian-born designer Buki Akib.
Tell us about your own design aesthetic and process.
Before Darkroom, I worked as a graphic designer, and this graphic approach is definitely the way I work here too — I respond to boldness and bravery in design, but also really enjoy simple items made really well. When designing products here, I’ll always look outside of the industry of ‘retail’ for a starting point, I see little point in responding to trends.
My own design aesthetic is very much what you see at Darkroom, I pretty much live it — my home is very similar. I’m currently close to buying a new place, and am looking forward to hand painting tribal-esque motifs and shapes on all the walls. I like design to be visually challenging and unexpected, but also to be realistic — I hate homes that look like show homes, or when people dress top-to-toe catwalk.
What events have you recently had or are coming up at Darkroom?
We just had a party to celebrate the window installation that launched Buki Akib’s bags [see above], and we are now working towards our Pagan themed season that launches on 21 June — Summer Solstice.
Do you support or stock graduates?
Yes we do — although it wasn’t one of the original theories behind the word ‘Darkroom’, we like how it has the connotations of developing new talent. The nature of what we do, in selling one-off and hand-made pieces, works really well for graduate designers.
Would you ever branch out to apparel?
At the moment, no — we really enjoy the creativity that is inspired by selling accessories only. The way we mix interior and fashion accessories allows for so much scope and means we have a unique voice that we can build on in many ways. Ultimately though, our shop size limits us to how much we can present. There’s no doubt that we’d love a bigger space, and who knows what that would bring!
What’s next for Darkroom?
There’s the Pagan launch, which is a really exciting mix of specially commissioned pieces by several jewellers including Michelle Lowe-Holder, CCCHU and Na’ama Rietti, alongside some new Darkroom pieces and a selection of beautiful items sourced from New York and Madagascar.
We are also working on our inaugural Darkroom knitwear collection which will launch during the London Design Festival in September — we’re working with the amazing designer and set-builder Camille Walala on a major window installation for that, which is extremely exciting.
A major Tate exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s work doesn’t even open for another three weeks, but Twin are already dotty with anticpation. Such is the appeal of the Japanese artist’s work and personal story that the exhibition is shaping up to be the most exciting of 2012.
Since 1977, Japan’s foremost contemporary artist has, of her own free will, lived in a psychiatric institution and has been a victim of her own neurotic and obsessional behaviour. This behaviour however, has transformed itself over four decades, into startling, astounding art.
Come February 9th, the Tate Modern offers a diverse parade of her work, from paintings and drawings, to captured performances and immersive installations.She may be mostly known for her slight dot obsession, but this exhibition explores further, celebrating her intensely fruitful career, and is sure to only garner her more fervent followers.
Yayoi Kusama is at the Tate Modern from 9th February – 5th June 2012 tate.org.uk
As a co-founding member of Neo-Concretism, artist Lygia Pape was at the forefront of the emerging contemporary art scene in Fifties Brazil. In 2004, Pape passed away aged 77 and her contribution has since been recognized at a major retrospective at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, a version of which is currently at the Serpentine Gallery.
Magnetized Space conveys the heat and rhythm of Pape’s life work, consisting of early drawings and poems from her Concrete period as well as later works which concentrated on the depiction of emotion and sensation and fellow artist Hélio Oiticica described as permanently open seeds.
Tonight, Guy Brett, a writer and curator who knew the artist personally, will talk through a selection of her films and her process behind them, all in the context of the Brazilian avant-garde’s history. It’s a chance to remember an often forgotten Twentieth Century revolutionary, whose work playfully and skillfully mediated the politics and aesthetics of Brazilian society.
Lygia Pape: Film Work Talk by Guy Brett Thursday 12 January 2012, 7pm at the Centre for Possible Studies, W1U 8HR Magnetized Space is at the Serpentine until 19 February 2012 serpentinegallery.org
To celebrate the launch of their new website, luxury footwear brand Hogan has invited cult photographer and blogger Todd Selby to record a day in the life of 17 inspiring creatives going about their day-to-day lives and of course in a pair of Hogan’s finest.
Among the 17 creatives stars featured in Future Roots are Twin favourite, illustrator Quentin Jones, artists Gaia Repossi and Lola Montes Schnabel and director Benn Northover. Each film is up to five minutes long, enough time to reveal each person and what they represent, while leaving the viewer with some seriously stimulating thoughts. Thank you Hogan.
This holiday, Madewell, the effortlessly cool jean makers, are asking whether you prefer tea or coffee? Shoes or bags? Sparkle or confetti? Dree Hemingway and Maria Muñoz star in this fabulously fun fashion film. Each choice reveals a different sequence. Girls..I bet you only need one second to choose…enjoy.
Twin loves the posters designed for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games so much we thought we’d give you a little pre-peep show. Artists such as Howard Hodgkin, Tracey Emin and Martin Creed were chosen to give forth their thoughts on the Games happening in London, and the ideals that sit behind it. And the result? An amalgamation of colourful, minimalist, quirky art created with words, a pencil, or paint. Perfect.
The posters will be showing as part of the London 2012 festival next July at the Tate Britain, free of charge.
Jeweller Steph Davies was amazed by a statistic that less than one per cent of women will ever own a diamond of one karat or more. Her response was to put something together that was a little quirky and more affordable than a diamond. Diamond Day is a jewellery line of silver diamond trinkets inspired by the stone’s natural form. The result is more tough and adorable than the real thing.
Nature is a recurrent theme in her designs and since making Diamond Day, Davies is now focusing on making small individual pieces. She’s just cast some crab claws she caught on the beach at her hometown in West Wales.
She says: “I’m looking forward to getting them cast in silver and oxidizing them to keep them looking a bit raw and industrial looking. I’m inspired by hard working, creative people who are passionate about what they do and make the most of what they have.” When it comes to a diamond with edge, Davies is our girl.
Amie Norris takes starkly beautiful and intimate nude portraits. The London based photographer shoots her subjects in their own surroundings to ensure the viewer gets a deeper insight into who this person is, what they represent and more importantly what Amie wants to portray.
Norris says: “I really enjoy seeing and being a part of my models’ personal space. It’s not about invading the space, but adding a comforting and relaxed feeling to the images. It also makes the image more intriguing, giving the image just a little more than a studio image would.”
The 26-year-old is soon due to début her work in an exhibition in New York. “My plan is to exhibit work internationally, and to publish as many books as possible. I do it for the sheer joy it gives me; to be able to make something into a piece of art gives you an inexplicable buzz.”