Friday 29 March 2013

Simon Carter

Most of us have endured a nickname at some point in our life, probably during childhood. I say 'endured' because they're not usually very flattering, having often been designed in the playground to torment or ridicule. Mine invariably consisted of some sort of crude variation of my surname. More commonly we've probably all known a Plain Jane, Ginge, Four Eyes, or most cruel of all, Pizza Face. Memorable adult nicknames, are often appended to notorious characters such as Jack the Ripper, Doctor Death, or Typhoid Mary, but more rarely to celebrate positive traits; exceptions being 'Capability' Brown and the Prince of Pop. So Simon Carter is quite fortunate to go by the moniker, King of Cufflinks.

But it could have all been so different, if Simon had continued along his original path studying immunology at Chelsea College. Mr Antibody perhaps? The location of his studies however, was to steer him in an unexpected direction. It was the early eighties, and the Kings Road was awash with New Romantics parading in their finery. Simon had a 1930s vintage motorcyclist brooch, ( brooches were big in men's fashion at the time) which he decided to have copied by a factory in Cornwall, and then proceeded to try his hand at making some money selling to boutiques along the Kings Road. Unfortunately no one was interested, until,  just when he'd almost given up, society jewellers, Cobra & Bellamy, bought the lot. Immunology quickly lost its allure at this point, and a successful new men's accessories business was born. Equally the fashion for brooches didn't last long, and Simon became better known for his modern take on a man's wardrobe staple; the cufflink. While the business was initially a wholesale one, the first shop opened in the mid 90s in Quadrant Arcade off Regent Street. Today, Simon Carter products are sold in 35 countries, with shops in London, Toronto, and... er... Ilkley, amongst others.

On the face of it, a store in Crystal Palace might have seemed as unlikely as Ilkley for a brand with an international reputation, but Simon has lived just down the road in Thornton Heath for 20 years, and so knew and loved the area. He rightly had a hunch that there would be enough like minded locals to make the business work. It has so far outstripped all his business projections. Opening the shop here has also fulfilled the somewhat "random" nature of the business, as Simon puts it, meaning that there was no grand plan to it. After all, he has travelled in the opposite direction of received wisdom, which sees fashion designers developing a line of accessories on the back of a successful clothing business. So, although the cufflinks came first, and made his name, the colourful shirts are now the biggest part of the business.

When he first opened on the Triangle, he says he was touched by the genuine interest and encouragement shown by all who have walked through the door, even those who felt it was probably too pricy or not for them. From the merchandise to the look of the shop, there have inevitably been comparisons with Paul Smith, for which Simon is extremely flattered. Though the influence is there, the shop has its own character. There's an individuality of style and independence of spirit, which Simon says, mirror the characteristics of SE19ers. Fitting out the shop didn't cost a fortune either. Old military portraits and several other items were picked up from auction houses, such as Roseberys in West Norwood, and the bowling club boards from South Norwood were heading for a skip. And overlooking it all above the cosy wood burner (how many clothing shops have one of those?), is Crystal the porcelain cat.  The comparatively small and oddly shaped shop might have put off many retailers, and as Crystal Place develops, this might, Simon believes, play in the area's favour. As he says, the Triangle is reaching a bit of a crossroads, with more and more interesting places opening, and the fear is locally that the big chains will start to take notice and move in, snapping up empty retail units, sending rents beyond the means of local traders. However most of the available units in the area are probably too small to be of interest to the big players. I hope he's right.

Despite how small the shop is, it feels deceptively spacious, with room to move around from one display area to another. Here are just a few items that caught my eye.

Going back to the subject of nicknames, could this be the mysterious Prince Gervaise of Aurelia, I wonder?
A charming little chap made from recycled ties!
Simon Carter
After a couple of hours in the shop, I couldn't leave empty handed, and so yearning for spring like the rest of you, I bought this colourful little number!

71 Westow Street
020 8768 1457

1 comment:

  1. Dear James,

    I live in the triangle SE19 and love your blog! Every post is great, thanks for that!

    I've been quite sad given that you did not give us more information about the Prince Gervaise of Aurelia - :) A friend TOLD ME THAT SUCH PRINCE IS A JOKE, but I BELIEVED HE WAS A REAL ONE!

    All I could get from the net about him was this:

    " Whenever I was on window shopping I wondered who this Prince is? Well this is what I have found:

    Heraté's king, Theorbe, was slain at Patternfall at the edge of the Courts of Chaos, having chosen to serve Heraté's interests and destroy what he understood to be the source of the Black Road as directly as possible (as well as, perhaps, seeing for himself just what the sorcerers of Amber were capable of). Unfortunately, his death left behind an empty throne and far too many claimants. He had four sons: Orlande, GERVAISE, Telemac, Alix

    Orlande is dead, having been possessed by a demon/monster from the Black Road when the Black Road passed through Heraté and subsequently slain. Orlande left behind two sons of his own - one a bastard and one born in wed-lock. They are not remotely pleased with how things are shaking down, and seem to be remarkably close given that one was born on the wrong side of the blanket. While their grandfather and youngest uncle were at the Courts of Chaos, they were in Heraté, playing at being regents, doing what they could for their people (and for themselves, because they used the years as an opportunity to foster a closer personal relationship with the nearest Shadows). Orlande's legitimate son (Valerin) is currently in hiding, and it is known that he intends to do anything he can to keep his uncle from being crowned. THE SECOND ELDEST SON (GERVAISE) OF HERATÉ'S KING IS ALIVE, but he is also in no position to claim the throne, as his sexual proclivities were well-known and in Heraté the ability to father an heir is all-important. PRINCE GERVAISE has removed himself officially from the succession and acts as an advisor to the current court. Telemac, the third son of Heraté's king, and by all accounts a harsh man, is very alive and very interested in the future of Heraté. More @