I made the mistake recently of hitting London’s Oxford Street in search of something special, and between the unbearable crowds and the overwhelming amounts of identical stuff, I quickly turned around and went home for a cup of tea. Before you let out a collective ‘duh’, don’t get me wrong – I knew what I was getting into. I used to be the kind of nerves-of-steel shopper who’d dive straight into Boxing Day Sale mosh pits, and as a foolish twentysomething I once queued for hours on my birthday for a pair of jeans – but I’ve come to the realisation that while I’ll always worship at the temple of Liberty, I’ve given up on the high street.
Blame it on Etsy, but my heart belongs to handmade – and I’d rather devote my now rare moments of recreational shopping to mooching around markets (London’s Crafty Fox markets are always good hunting grounds) and little jewel box boutiques that do all the treasure hunting for you (see Brixton’s Brixi and Luna & Curious in Shoreditch).
Hooray for handmade and locally made, I say – I think there’s nothing lovelier than knowing who created my favourite things, and supporting local talent. Here are five amazing independent designers worth shouting about, all right here in England…
I spotted Nadia Izruna’s pretty, playful pieces on Etsy a few years back and treated myself to one of her signature Peter Pan-collared blouses – and it’s still my go-to whenever I want to play at being ladylike. Each of her pieces is meticulously handmade with a vintage vibe, using dreamy retro fabrics (Hello, Liberty Lawn!). Last year, Nadia launched her Little Nadinoo line, using the same fabulous fabric selection that features in her main collection for stylin’ babies and toddlers, and I’ve been hankering to get everyone into matching playsuits ever since.
Pen & Gravy
If you’ve ever scoffed tacos at Brixton’s new Wahaca branch and looked up, you’ll already be familiar with the distinctive doodlings of Jamie Palmer – the man behind South London label Pen & Gravy. Beyond his beautiful hand-drawn lampshades, Jamie turns out brightly coloured ceramics featuring mesmerising organic shapes and geometric patterns – all one-off wonders. Keen readers might recognise his quirky updates on vintage photographic portraits, which have graced the pages of Ladyland before. Watch this space for a new Pen & Gravy online store coming soon…
For a big fat hit of colour therapy by way of homewares, you need one of Jonna Saarinen’s pieces for your kitchen, stat. Hailing from Finland and now a Crystal Palace local, Jonna once described her aesthetic as being inspired by her beloved grandma’s hand-knitted cardigans, crazy aprons and woolly socks. Her signature ‘Hundreds & Thousands’ print, a vibrant celebration of overlapping colours and intersecting patterns, is emblazoned on tea towels, breakfast trays and pot stands – and it’s highly addictive.
We Are Arrow
Jewellery designer Tatiana Andrea works magic by transforming items found in nature into the surprisingly new: take her ‘Nest’ ring (above right) – cast from a piece of pine cone, that is often mistaken for an engagement ring. Or her ‘Cebu’ necklace: a bronze pendant cast from a cross-section of a seashell that becomes an abstract form. You can browse Tatiana’s collection at her studio and store – a converted shipping container! – in Netil Market, East London, or online. But be warned: make room on your fingers and wrists now.
Sarah & Sorrentino
Attention, all suckers for silk scarves: Sarah & Sorrentino’s sublime hand-made numbers will make your life complete. The ladies behind the label are Sarah Pasricha and Louisa Sorrentino, textile artists with backgrounds in fashion and film – and they’re the new queens of pattern (hand-drawn and screen-printed, naturally). Drawing on distinctive characteristics of London’s Dalston – particularly its rich Caribbean culture – their hypercolour prints grace neckerchiefs, scarves and shirts that are so covetable it hurts.