One of London's big attractions at this time of year, is the Christmas shop window. In the West End, stores compete with each other for the most elaborate and innovative display, knowing that it's good for business and draws the crowds. Alongside Fortnum & Mason, Liberty, and Selfridges, Plumbase on Westow Hill should be added to the list! This bathroom supplies shop in SE19 may not have the budget of the big department stores, but deserves full marks for festive spirit. And it's all down to the creative mind of one man, Joe Field. When he first decorated the window, 5 or 6 years ago, head office were straight on the phone demanding to know what on earth the window had to do with plumbing. They were clearly missing the point. Joe has always had a creative streak, and aside from the day job, is a keen sculptor. In the years since his first installation, his winter wonderland scenes have delighted adults and children alike. In a funny way, they remind me of the opulent baroque church interiors I saw earlier this year in Bavaria, where gilded cherubs and ornamentation sprout out of the walls in abundance.
And, just in case you'd forgotten what sort of shop you were in...
It was my cousin's 40th birthday recently, and I really had no idea what to get him. I have to confess, my default reaction was to head downhill to East Dulwich. Fortunately I was running short of time, and decided to head uphill to the Triangle instead. This was of course a much better idea, and I was able to find plenty of suitable prezzies, some of which came from Smash Bang Wallop.
"Flash, Bang, Wallop, What a Picture". So sung Tommy Steele in the musical, Half A Sixpence. This was part of the inspiration for the name, for originally the intention had actually been to open a gallery with friends Nick and Emma Keeble, showcasing their graphic art and Andy's photography, but plans changed. Nick & Emma decided it wasn't for them, and Andy decided to set up the Transmitter magazine instead. So it was down to Liz to steer the project. Flash became Smash, a vague reference to dinosaurs rampaging around the local park.
With a background in fashion design, the idea of a shop that sold clothes amongst other things, was more appealing. Liz had previously worked for Joseph, and had also been a lecturer at London College of Fashion, where she wrote a book on fashion marketing. Of course, the shop we know today, now in its second incarnation after a couple of years spent round the corner on Church Road, sells much more than fashion. From jewellery and accessories to cosmetics and candles, toys, gifts, and now homewares, it is rapidly becoming the Triangle's own mini department store.
Jewellery by Alex Monroe
Jewellery By Olivia Staves
And things don't stay still at S.B.W.. Upstairs has opened as a new homewares room. The idea is that it constantly offers something new, reinventing itself every so often like a pop-up shop. Currently looking very Christmassy, but who knows what comes next. Liz clearly puts a lot of energy and creativity into this thriving business, from the striking window displays to new S.B.W. branded products, some of which she designs herself. Like many other 'locals', she has lived all over London, so the Triangle is fortunate that this is where she chose to settle, although by her own admission it wasn't a difficult decision, as the place has so much to offer. From the hills and views, the bars and restaurants, the people and of course the dinosaurs.
It's party season, and the invitations are already dropping into my inbox, including one that requests I come as my favourite Hitchcock character ! For guys the choice is rather limited. I've considered putting on a suit, lots of bronze foundation and dying my hair a shade of bluish grey, and going as Cary Grant in any role. Alternatively, I could just grab my camera, slip into some pyjamas, a dressing gown, and crutches, and make a plausible James Stewart in Rear Window. Girls on the other hand, have it much easier. They could simply nip down to Heather at No.47, who would whip up a Grace Kelly or Tippi Hedren hairdo with ease (and a few hairpieces.)
Heather Morris trained as a hairdresser back in the late 80s, and quickly specialised in wig making. She set up her salon in pharmacist, John Bell & Croyden, which you may know happens to be on Wigmore Street. How apt. A few years ago, Heather and her husband Sami decided to set up shop nearer home in South London. From the outset, it was to be more than just a hairdressers, both in terms of the ambience, and the fact that they sell clothing and accessories. The starting point for the interior, was the contents of a powder compact, so a foundation of flesh tones is highlighted with lipstick red and shimmering gold. The mix and match furnishings which range from local vintage finds, to ebay purchases, to Ikea basics, creates a relaxed boudoir space, in which clients are free to wander.
Sadly, just as fortyseven had established itself on the Triangle, Heather's husband Sami passed away. Briefly, Heather considered shutting the business, but then realised that throwing away her dream was not going to improve a tragic situation. After all, she'd been cutting hair and making clothes since school, when as a 14 year old she should have been doing her homework, but knowing that one day she would have her own business. Hopefully Heather & the team at fortyseven will be adding sparkle to Westow Street for many years to come.
Before 'Boris Bikes' became a familiar sight on London's streets, Wojtek Popiel had his own bike hire business. But after the Barclays branded docking stations started springing up all over town, Wojtek quickly realised that the competition was overwhelming. He had also grown tired of spending 10 hours a day in his van, delivering and picking up cycles from customers. What he needed was to open a shop and start selling the Dutch brand, Gazelle, that he was previously hiring. Ironically he chose a site at the top of one of South London's steepest inclines. You may remember the premises had previously been the demurely named, Pillow Talk.
He couldn't have timed it better, with the huge resurgence in cycling. This can be put down to several factors, from the success of our olympic cyclists, to concern for the environment, but as I've discovered, it's mainly to do with the pure joy of whizzing around on 2 wheels.
In addition to selling both adult's and children's bikes, the shop has an enthusiastic mechanic, Damian on hand to keep all types of bike running smoothly (not just Dutch ones!), and there are plans to expand into the space upstairs, when they will start selling another brand, Koga.
Originally from Gliwice in southern Poland, Wojtek has lived in London for 8 years, including stints in everywhere from Clapham to Willesden. However, he is now firmly rooted in West Norwood with a young family. Despite an obvious passion for 2 wheels, the demands of business and family mean that he very rarely gets in the saddle himself these days. One exception being the London to Brighton bike ride, which next year he is planning to do with a handful of customers.
No.1 Westow Street Tel: 020 3441 5298 http://www.popiel.co.uk/
The Triangle is a photo journal about a little corner of South London. I am a Photographer specialising in Interiors and Architecture, & I moved to Upper Norwood/Crystal Palace/Gipsy Hill/SE19 (you choose) back in 2006, and saw immediately what a strong community exists here. One of the things that makes the area different, is that unlike most of the towns and villages that make up London, it is not arranged along an endless high street on the way to somewhere else, but instead is centred on the 3 streets which gives the area its "Triangle" soubriquet. As well as its community spirit, the area also possesses a strongly independent streak, which is reflected in its diverse local shops and restaurants, many of which are locally owned and run businesses. Unusually for London, apart from the usual banks and estate agents, you don't find many national chains here. So the aim of this blog is to photograph as many of these businesses on the Triangle, both the premises and the owners or those who run them, to celebrate this rich community.