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Gary Kemp

Gary Kemp


Words & Portraits Kirk Truman


“There’s an artistic decadence about the area which still lingers – it’s the most artistically vibrant neighbourhood in London…”

It’s just shy of 10am and we’re siting up on the first floor of the Rebecca Hossack Gallery on Conway Street: me, Gary Kemp and Piper, his friendly miniature labradoodle. Gary has been coming to the gallery, just round the corner from his home, for many years. On this particular grey Monday morning in March, we’re surrounded by the work of the artist Barbara Macfarlane. But we’re chatting about fashion, not art, as Gary tells me how clothes have been an important part of his career, upbringing, and life. Designer Oliver Spencer joins us to dress him in a number of pieces from his latest collection, while Gary and I reminisce about Fitzrovia’s past, moving back and forth between Victorian London and the seedier side of the neighbourhood during the New Romantic era, when he first discovered Warren Street, Fitzroy Square and the Post Office Tower. To cut a long story short: we’re talking Spandau Ballet, music, fashion and Fitzrovia.

Born just up the road in Islington to working class parents, Gary was raised in a council house with his brother, and later fellow band member, Martin Kemp. As he was growing up and becoming a musician, place was everything. In his words: “You couldn’t find your tribe unless you went out the door. Today, you can find it on your laptop. In those days you couldn’t.” For Gary’s new wave band Spandau Ballet, the legendary clubs of Soho’s yesteryear – Billy’s, The Blitz Club and Le Beat Route – served as the colourful backdrop to the New Romantic era and helped propel them to massive popularity and lasting fame as one of the biggest British acts of the 1980’s.

Kemp’s relationship with music started at the age of 11, when his parents bought him a guitar from a shop on Holloway Road as a Christmas present. “I still can’t work out to this day why my father thought it was a good idea,” he says, “but for me, it was an immediate epiphany of wanting to write songs. I didn’t want to play anybody else’s songs, so instead I wrote my own. I think, in truth, I quite like being alone – I quite like the company of a guitar. When you’re a creative person, you sort of make your own friends, whether it’s a piece of art or a song.” Despite having started acting as a youngster, Gary now focused on a career in music, forming a band called The Gentry with school friends. His brother Martin was later to join the group as a bassist. After a friend of the band, DJ Robert Elms, saw a phrase scribbled on the wall of a nightclub lavatory during a visit to Berlin, The Gentry was renamed Spandau Ballet. Soon, they became a staple act of The Blitz Club in Soho, a hotbed of talent for new music and fashion, boasting an array of rising stars, from Boy George to Steve Strange.

Frequenting Soho during these early years of his career meant Gary soon discovered Fitzrovia: his first encounter with the area came in 1979, when he visited Boy George’s squat on Warren Street for a photo-shoot after a gig in Soho. “At this time, Fitzrovia was quite a seedy area. The square was a slum, the centre of the used car trade. It wasn’t residential, not in the way in which we know it today. Warren Street was where Boy George and his crowd lived. At the time it was the most famous squat in London, and we used to visit quite a lot. It was painted completely white inside, and they’d hung up lots of nets that would float around the place, with mattresses on the floor. It was full of the most interesting, cross-dressing, wild people. Costume designer Michele Clapton was there, stylist Kim Bowen, Steve Jones and Christos Tolera too; it was full of St Martins students, so it certainly wasn’t a squalid place like you might imagine,” he says. “The first time we went there was after we’d played at The Blitz that night for a photo session with the photographer Graham Smith. In those days, George – who wasn’t called Boy George back then – was a cloakroom attendant at The Blitz Club on a Tuesday night; he’d famously steal everything from peoples’ pockets. I remember him shouting down the bannisters ‘I can sing better than your fucking singer’, so I shouted back to him ‘Get your own band then!’ And of course he did,” laughs Gary.

Buying a synthesiser, Gary wrote what in 1981 became Spandau Ballet’s first album, Journeys to Glory, which led to the band becoming a household name. During the 1980s, Spandau Ballet’s success went from strength to strength, with Kemp writing many of the band’s early hits in his parents’ council house. In 1990, the band split – the same year that both Gary and Martin Kemp appeared in lead roles in the film The Krays, with Gary starring as Ronnie Kray. Tensions between the former bandmates spiralled over the publishing rights to songs, with singer Tony Hadley, drummer John Keeble, and saxophone player Steve Norman taking legal action against Kemp.

At this time, he lived in Highgate. By the early 2000s, many friends and acquaintances were beginning to move either to the then up-and-coming Primrose Hill or Marylebone, but Gary had other plans. “Even at this time, Fitzrovia was still run down. It’s always been this kind of no man’s land between Soho and Regent’s Park. It’s always had a kind of roughness about it, and has only recently become a decidedly upmarket area,” he says, “I like that Fitzrovia has a uniqueness about it. That’s what’s exciting about it; it’s inviting and is creating its own social existence. I suppose, the truth is I’m quite fascinated with the history and the people of this place. I like the idea of walking around the area and sensing the ghosts that came before us: the Pre-Raphaelites, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf. A pet topic of mine is the furniture, architecture and art of 19th century London, especially the work of architect-designer E.W. Godwin, which I am an avid collector of,” he says. Today, the area’s still full of creatives. There’s a very Downtown New York feel to the place now, that when I first moved here wasn’t around. There’s an artistic decadence about the area, which still lingers – it’s the most artistically vibrant neighbourhood in London. Fitzrovia has continued to pass the artistic baton down to the new generations.”

Gary moved to Fitzrovia about 15 years ago with his wife Lauren, having been drawn by the appeal of the area’s Georgian streets and squares. “The architecture and space of Robert Adam’s vision is embracing and wonderful. The square is like walking into St. Mark’s Square after emerging from the back alleys of Venice: the space just opens – it’s an embrace of oxygen. It’s a real pleasure to have Fitzroy Square as the centre and crown-jewel of the area,” says Gary. In 2009, Spandau Ballet reformed, with their reunion documented in Soul Boys of the Western World (2014), which Kemp co-produced. Following on from a nine-month world tour, relationships between band members are stronger than ever, and it looks as if there’s more to come: Gary and his band-mates are now talking about recording a new album and continuing to play live.

Citizens

Citizens


Words & Photography Etienne Gilfillan


Pampered pooches and exotic cats on leashes… Fitzrovia’s pets are seemingly no strangers to the area’s gentrification. These furry citizens have taken a liking to the high life, freeloading snacks from strangers and local businesses, and using local trees as their observation posts, always on the lookout for Fitzrovia’s pet paparazzi and the chance to become local celebrities!

Inci Ismail

Inci Ismail


Words & Portraits Etienne Gilfillan


“We are very close to everything that leaves our kitchen, and the atmosphere that we create…”

Walking down Newman Street one morning, I noticed the colourfully painted interiors and neon lights of a brand new restaurant. The playful interior, with brightly coloured skeletons and sword-wielding warriors adorning the walls, immediately drew me in. But sitting down to breakfast, I quickly realised that despite the eatery’s modern look, the lovingly prepared dishes and warm welcome spoke of a far older and more traditional perspective.

A wondrous feast of varied meze was laid out before me, and as I tucked in, Inci Ismail, the owner of Firedog, explained how she’d always wanted to bring a modern twist to Turkish dining while staying rooted in family traditions. One of the clues to this ode to the Aegean past lies in the restaurant’s obscure, but seemingly modern, name.

“A firedog is a piece of stoneware that was used for grilling meat as far back as the 17th Century BC on the Aegean island of Santorini,” Inci explains. “But the main inspiration behind Firedog is our traditional style of dining – there’s no such thing as a ‘meal’, it’s always an eating experience with friends and family.”

Inci was born in Tottenham, North London, where she lived with her mother, father and three siblings, and her passion for bringing this noble culinary heritage to Fitzrovia can be traced back to her parents’ influence. They grew up in Sivas, a beautiful city in central Turkey known, among other things, for its distinctive regional dishes.

Inci’s earliest memories of food relate to how inextricably entwined eating and socialising are in Turkish culture. When she was growing up, her family hosted weekend breakfasts that usually blurred into lunch or dinner – “a never-ending breakfast feast”, as she describes it. Her household had an “open-door policy” whereby friends and family were always welcome – in fact, the more the merrier. This very Turkish sense of sociability and generosity had a profound impact on the budding restaurateur, one that became an integral part of her adult outlook and the primary inspiration for Firedog’s culinary ethos.

Though Inci later married a Turkish Cypriot whose mother’s cooking skills rivalled those of her own, she still sides with her own kin. “My mother’s expertise in Turkish dishes is greater than anyone else I know – but I suppose I am biased!” she says. Family loyalty aside, Inci was duly impressed with her mother-in-law’s considerable talents in the kitchen. “In fact, we flew Firedog’s head chef to Cyprus to meet her. We wanted him to learn to master the flavours, the cuisine, as well as the social significance that food symbolises.”

Such measures are unsurprising when you realise just how completely immersed Inci is in the business of creating food. “We are very close to everything that leaves our kitchen, and the atmosphere that we create,” she explains. This is a welcome return to a style of dining that sometimes seems to have vanished in the modern world, and a salutary lesson for a generation that has forgotten the sacred ritual of gathering round the table and prefers the company of a screen at lunch and dinner.

True to Inci’s family traditions, Firedog’s great innovation is dishing out this expansive Mediterranean eating experience for breakfast and brunch – all day breakfast is served until 4pm. “It sets us apart, and is a completely different way of dining to the regular London brunch scene”, she says. The main attraction here is the Firedog Breakfast Meze: their signature spread of traditional meze dishes and specials inspired by the Su’dan restaurant in Alacati, Turkey. We’re not talking a bowl of porridge or cereal, here, and the blandness of a workaday breakfast is made clear when Ismail explains the logic behind her approach: “Grazing on smaller plates full of flavour, mixing sweet and savoury, ensures every taste craving is fulfilled!”

Roast beetroot hummus, smoked and pickled aubergine, goat’s yoghurt, and pastirma are served alongside the authentic Near Eastern flavours of sumac, barberry, and sujuk, the spicy sausage popular in turkey and beyond. More than just the food, it’s that distinctive Mediterranean attitude to eating together that makes the concept so appealing. As Inci says, “Being able to share and pass dishes around the table adds to the social experience – and there’s no fear of having food envy!”

Drinks are also given the Firedog spin, with a range of exotic freshly squeezed juices Fresh mandarin, grapefruit and purple carrot juice add extra zing to daytime dining and bring a bit of the Aegean sun to London. Should you fancy something stronger, they’ve also teamed up with South London’s Partizan Brewery to produce a bespoke sumac and za’atar house beer.

Firedog combines dining and bar spaces. Inci was delighted with the mood and atmosphere of the space when they first came to it, but was keen to give it a fresh perspective too. Though eager to share her culture’s convivial dining habits, she wanted to do so with a humorous and contemporary edge by blending other cultural mores and styles, adamant that  “Firedog would have elements of London”. With this in mind, she enlisted an East London artist from Graffiti Life to daub the walls with images of the meaty, moustachioed warrior Tarkan, a character from a series of Turkish comics and films of the 60s and 70s. “Tarkan sort of sums up our identity,” she says. “ A proud Turkish warrior!”

Inci’s success hasn’t been down to luck: she’s a canny entrepreneur with her fingers in a lot of meze. Her hard-working parents instilled in her a rigorous work ethic, which has paid off in several other business ventures. Simply Organique, a coffee house and grocery business based in Manor House was her first, started in February of 2015. Since then, she says, she has been fortunate to support other business ventures, such as The Black Penny coffee house in Covent Garden, Firedog, and an upcoming seafood concept called Trawler Trash opening shortly in Islington.

Despite these geographically dispersed businesses, Fitzrovia is where Inci has made her home. She’s particularly fond of Store Street, where her morning caffeine fix comes courtesy of Store Street Espresso. “I take my hat off to them,” she says. “A flat white is my go-to in the mornings.” And she has a soft spot, too, for the buildings on South Crescent, explaining “I love the architecture… it looks beautiful at Christmas. One thing that would make the street complete, though, would be the revival of the old Petrol station.”

Meanwhile, back at Firedog, the vibe is fun, convivial and buzzing – just as it should be when good food is combined with good company. “We hope that everyone who visits us leaves suitably full of food, laughs and music,” says Inci. As restaurant mission statements go, I can’t really think of a better one than that.

The Museum of Modern Nature

The Museum of Modern Nature


Words & Illustrations Sophie Pelissier


It is often worth reminding ourselves that, as Londoners, we are lucky to have some of the world’s oldest and most important museums at our feet. We have the opportunities to know everything about anything, and have never been so spoiled for big blockbuster exhibitions. However, sometimes it’s all too easy to drift through a museum and feel that we are learning simply by dutifully observing what is put in front of us. How much of what we see really puts us outside our comfort zone?

The Wellcome Collection, overlooking six lanes of noisy traffic opposite Euston station, challenges this traditional approach to exhibitions by catching its visitors off-guard. As a free-thinking museum dedicated to making connections between medicine, life and art, it pushes us to question what it is to be human. And in doing so, it offers an experience that is two-fold; not only are we learning new things, but hopefully we might leave with a new perspective on ourselves. Wellcome’s mantra is therefore simple: it’s “a free destination for the incurably curious”, and an open mind is all you need to bring along with you.

These are not the dry, historical exhibitions of school trips, but presentations that bring together the bizarre and the unexpected. Take ‘Making Nature’, the museum’s first exhibition celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, which is also part of a larger study of our relationship with the natural world. Tracing our ancient attempts to ‘organise’ nature and how we have genetically manipulated it in the 21st century, it also challenges us, and our preconceptions, along the way. When reading about the history of zoos and circuses, we become aware of visitors in the next-door room behind a two-way screen. Interesting, too, to note the effect of taxidermy: how do we respond to a naturalistic tableau of fox cubs at play, compared to the fox lying on the floor nearby, with no pretence made at concealing death? Most arresting of all is the footage of a tiger as it paces forlornly through an empty house: is this the ‘Tiger Who Came to Tea’, Blake’s ‘Tyger, Tyger’, or something more sinister? Overall, the approach is so smart and subtle that you don’t even realise they’re doing it, but the exhibition’s organisers show us how our response to nature has evolved not only through the exhibits, but through our own behaviour.

By taking on big topics such as ‘Making Nature’, the Wellcome Collection inevitably turns our attention to modern problems of our own making – poaching and habitat loss, our weakness for fur or obsession with the #pugsofinstagram hashtag. The Collection does this equally well in its second temporary exhibition too. In ‘Electricity: The Spark of Life’, the final room leaves the question of sustainable energy hanging in the air, a perturbing afterthought to the model of the world’s first bespoke eco-city being built in Abu Dhabi.

This all feeds back into the Wellcome ethos: that great ideas in science and medicine can change people’s lives all over the world. As part of the Wellcome Trust, the charitable foundation aimed at improving global health, the Wellcome Collection was originally conceived by the 19th century pharmacist turned philanthropist Henry Wellcome. An eccentric who amassed one of the world’s most impressive collections of medical and health-related objects, he housed his treasures in the current building on Euston Road for the benefit of the science and medical communities. Henry Wellcome’s legacy is at the heart of all the exhibitions: eccentric ideas and artefacts that nonetheless highlight the importance of scientific research and developments in modern medicine.

The Wellcome Collection, then, is a place founded on big ambitions, one of which is the aim of creating a dynamic and engaging place of learning open to the wider public. Visiting on a Saturday, I encountered the usual weekend crowd of young families, teenagers louche and day visitors from out of London, but not all of them had come solely for the exhibitions.  A ‘Saturday Studio’ for 14-19 year olds hosts creative workshops making films or podcasts. Public talks and events featuring scientists, researchers and professionals run throughout the week, many of them in support of this year’s special study of the natural world, and all of them for free, of course. The renowned library upstairs attracts the academic community from nearby University College London, but more of a surprise is the adjoining Reading Room. Described as ‘a new type of gallery’, this extension to the library is an interactive space where the public can probe a little deeper in to what it means to be human. Amongst the collection of books, objects and contemporary artworks, visitors can work, read, spontaneously get involved in pop-up talks or even host their own.

All of this is representative of the impressive achievements of Wellcome’s first 10 years. There has already been a £17.5 million re-development in 2012, to accommodate the unexpected footfall of 500,000 curious visitors a year. One senses that the Wellcome Collection still has much to offer us, especially in this special anniversary year of 2017. So if you have never bothered to ponder the meaning of life before, then there’s never been a better time. You have until June to see footage of Parisians in 1900 excitedly hopping on and off the world’s first electric sidewalk in ‘Electricity: The Spark of Life’. Go along in the first week of May to the ‘Re-making Nature’ weekend with your own objects and ideas, which will be used in the forthcoming ‘Museum of Modern Nature’ exhibition. Then, in the autumn, why not learn about the surprising life-saving powers of graphic design, or ancient healing traditions in India? And don’t worry if you forget to arrive with questions: the guys at Wellcome will make sure you leave with plenty of them.

Treadwell’s Bookshop

Treadwell’s Bookshop


Words Vaneesha Ritchie

Photography Etienne Gilfillan


“I want it to be a place for people to come and come back to and build a connection to and weave into their own histories.”

Where do curious Fitzrovians go if they’re wondering how people made sense of the world in the past? Or how they themselves might make sense of it today? Well, many of them head to Treadwells. Christina Oakley Harrington opened her now well-established bookshop back in 2002. It was named Treadwells after her grandmother, and its inception marked a point in Christina’s life where knowledge, ancestry, belief, strength and a desire to share and pass these things on all came together. Her father worked for the United Nations in the programme for developing nations, so the young Christina, brought up in West Africa and Southeast Asia, was exposed every day to the local forms of what Western culture might see as esoteric, or even pagan, practices and beliefs.

“In Liberia, the religions are very localised and mostly un-named, and my exposure was via playmates and through my family’s beloved cook and housekeeper Daniel, who took us to his village numerous times. We also had Liberian friends who kindly took us to parts of the country where most Westerners weren’t interested in going, to ceremonies for local village communities. The first religious ceremony I remember – in my entire life – was in upcountry Liberia, in a tiny village by the edge of the scrubby outlands from where there appeared a hundred girls marked up in white chalk. It was the final stage of the girls’ initiation into womanhood, when they came out of seclusion to be welcomed back to the community. There was dancing, drumming and the elders were in a state of trance possession and wearing masks. I was quite disturbed but fascinated, and clung tightly to my mother’s hand. In Burma, we lived in Rangoon and went with Burmese family friends to many, many pagodas, monasteries, shrines and community religious festivals.”

Eventually, when she was in her mid-teens, the family moved to the USA, where Christina noticed that, compared to the environments she’d grown up in, there was a certain ‘lack’. There were, of course, the formal organised religions, and while some traces of pagan heritage could be still found, as with Halloween, it seemed to her that while the customs had survived, their underlying meanings hadn’t. As a compulsively curious individual, Christina found herself on a quest to find meaning in her new environment, searching for the kinds of threads that run through most ‘esoteric’ beliefs: nature, ancestry, tribalism, community, symbolism, a language of meaning, and meaning within meaning. It was a search for magic – something you can harness, that’s already there, but isn’t yours.

So Christina voraciously read whatever she could get her hands on and kept searching. Eventually, during one of those long, late-night conversations at university, a friend told her about Wicca. This sounded like the ‘it’ that she had been looking for: so she packed her bags and moved to London. As with many alternative belief systems or ‘sects’, there was a certain element of secrecy involved, and Christina had to feel her way around the fringes, finding the ‘ins’ and the clues: the little hidden gem of a bookshop providing a pointer, the meetings with a contact. Finally, her persistence paid off. She found her way to the ‘centre of the flower’ and became first an apprentice to Wicca, and eventually a Wiccan high priestess – a white witch. Sadly, magic and witchcraft don’t pay the rent. So she applied her trademark sense of curiosity to a day job as lecturer in medieval history at St Mary’s University College. Medieval art and culture are filled with rich symbolism – those meanings hidden within meanings – the visible and the invisible. Christina became adept at understanding this particular era, interpreting the breadcrumb-trails of codes and symbols to arrive at a more complete understanding of how people thought at the time. Coincidentally, the study of esoteric beliefs and practices was having something of a boom at this point, at last being taken seriously as a genuine area for research and study.

One day, St Mary’s embarked on one of their restructuring drives, as universities are wont to do. And it was at this point in her life – with at least two demonstrable academic specialisms, a few good omens and a small inheritance from Grandmother Treadwell – that the bookshop was born. It wasn’t a straightforward birth. The young chap in the loans department of the bank was very sceptical about the long-term prospects for books, never mind bookshops – wasn’t it all going digital? But the plan was for more than ‘just’ a bookshop. It was to be a meeting place for practitioners and scholars, offering classes and lecture series, and a place in which like-minded and curious people could understand, communicate and experience rituals. It started in Covent Garden, with an orange box for a counter and volunteers to keep it open, but once again fate stepped in, or rents stepped up. Christina found herself drawn to Store Street – situated near the Petrie Museum of Egyptology, the Folklore Society, Fitzroy Square, the British Museum, SOAS (the School of African Studies) and the rich seam of curious people who frequented the Fitzrovia neighbourhood.

So, she mixed a great big potion, made a few incantations to the Moon on the third Tuesday of spring and – poof! – got a shop on Store Street. Ok, so that’s a fib; the truth is rather more prosaic, but she did get the shop, and people came. And that’s one of the surprising things about Christina and Treadwells: it’s not some kind of ‘cloud cuckoo land’ enterprise, but an extremely well organised and curated, research-rich resource providing history and information on anything you could possibly imagine (and plenty you can’t) about the beliefs and cultures of the world. It informs about magic and the occult, which are rooted in folklore and offer an alternative path to that of ‘Enlightenment’ rationalism. New Age, it is not: Christina is not of the school that believes that positive thinking can cure everything. She tells me that they often get people in the shop talking about how ill they feel and enquiring about books on healing. The staff ask gently if they have been to see their GP. To me this seemed (as one entirely clueless about occult matters) a contradiction, but as our conversation happily meandered I realised that the whole idea behind these fairly randomly grouped and quite disparate beliefs that are called esoteric is that they are quite willing to embrace what’s current and new; they don’t view it as a threat to their way of life or system of belief, but as a potential enhancement to their understanding of the world and the people living in it.

So what about the clientele? Who comes to Treadwells? “A very mixed bunch,” says Christina, ”but there are trends – like when Harry Potter was big in the early 2000s there was a lot of interest in magic. Interestingly, there is a strong feminist thread through many of these alternative beliefs which value the role of the female, unlike some strands of organised religions, which don’t; so we have a number of younger female participants who are seeking a strength from within themselves which is offered in alternative beliefs. So I’m pleased about that. My main wish is to ensure that we have what people need, or want, or are curious about, so that when have an interest, it doesn’t die on the vine.” With so much to find out about it’s hard to know where to start, but here are a few good recommendations for beginners: The Book of English Magic by Richard Heygate and Philip Carr-Gomm, The Secret Lore of London by John Matthews, and What is a Witch? by Pam Grossman. Asked what she wants for Treadwells in the future, Christina replies after some thought “Longevity. I want longevity for Treadwells. I want it to be a place for people to come and come back to and build a connection to and weave into their own histories.”

Jonathan Quearney

Jonathan Quearney


Words Jenna Walker

Portraits Sandra Vijandi


“I have had pointed out to me that I’m not easily impressed. Perhaps this is part of what can make a good craftsman.”

Tucked away behind the hustle of Tottenham Court Road is Windmill Street. And, nestled into its neat selection of esteemed boutiques is Jonathan Quearney of London. Quearney believes in the art and craft of classic tailoring; creating timeless classics for the modern world. A well-cut suit has always been a thing of desire. A mark of wealth, of respect, of sartorial consciousness. Indeed, Savile Row gained its place of prominence as far back as the days of the iconic rogue, Beau Brummell, who was the envy of the town. As a personal friend and confidante of King George IV, a young Brummell set the stage for the fashion of his day. Single-handedly, he did away with the overly ostentatious attire that was popular at the time, in favour of a more subdued and ‘fitted’look. From that point on, gone were the ruffles and frills, in was the tailored suit.

Today, as men desire a more custom approach to their outfitting, tailors such as Jonathan Quearney are becoming increasingly sought after. According to Quearney, the process of tailoring a bespoke suit is as individual as the person wearing it. This process runs further than taking measurements – rather, you need to take onboard the entire person. “This helps establishing what is necessary on this occasion and find the best starting point, whether you’re dealing with a newcomer or a more experienced man. I have had pointed out to me that I’m not easily impressed. Perhaps this is part of what can make a good craftsman. As a tailor examining cloth daily I have become well trained in the tuning out of cloths that don’t impress me. This helps me be independent in my taste. When you meet someone, you look them up and down – and everyone does it. But when we do it, that’s the natural line of the body we’re looking at and what you put on top of it influences how people see you.”

However, there is more to a bespoke suit than the cut of the cloth. “It’s the combination of the person’s personality, the function the suit’s going to have and the carefully selected cloth”Quearney explains. “When we combine these three elements, we can build something that has great value, a great design sensibility and integrity.” Tailoring runs in Quearney’s blood. His father, who was a cutter in Dublin, planted the seed in Quearney’s early years. “My dad brought me to work and I had an early age introduction to tailoring – it wasn’t training, it was just early exposure.” However, it was after he finished school that he realised his love for clothing was more than just a passing fad. He began working in clothes shops, but soon found that he had an appetite to learn design.

“Before I left Ireland, I worked for a designer called Cuan Hanly,  Paul Smith’s right hand man, who went on to become the creative director of Jack Spade. He encouraged me to go to the UK and study. He called me and said, ‘You’ve got talent, you just don’t realise it yet!’ So he motivated me to go back to college. He mentored me through the process of designing and understanding how to present a portfolio.”

After that, when he was 24, Quearney made the decision to come to the UK, accepting interviews at London College of Fashion and in Glasgow. “I got offered a place in both colleges,” he says, “but I took Glasgow because it felt like I was going to learn more there. The college in Glasgow taught you how to make clothes properly as well as design them.”

After a period of work experience with Prince Charles’ tailor Thomas Mahon – “he made me aware of the importance of precision, procedure and detail in his work” – Quearney was ready for the move to London. Mahon provided a reference with Quearney’s application for a position at Airey & Wheeler of Savile Row and his reference secured the job. This period of his career involved both learning the craft of cutting and how to put into practice the training received from Mahon.

Airey & Wheeler was founded in 1883 and their focus on lightweight clothing went hand in hand with Quearney’s soft tailoring style. He had mainly worked with Worsted wool business suits up until this point but Airey & Wheeler customers required outfitting; deconstructed featherweight blazers, patch pocket shirts, safari Jackets, Nero collars and one piece collars. This opened up the world of cloth’s colour, composition and construction. “Within a few years of making suits, I could see the importance of having my foundation in the craft. Customers, colleagues and students all value my knowledge and now 13 years on I still enjoy building on that and practicing the techniques with new cloths and cuts” says Jonathan.

His customers vary from the suit wearing elite of New York and London, the British Royal family, to a whole host of designers and artists who appreciate Jonathan’s ability to turn the craft of tailoring into an art. Having worked as a tailor for over a decade, Jonathan has seen many different faces of the industry throughout the years. Does he reckon it’s changed much? “Oh yeah,” he says, “without a doubt. When I started there were very few apprenticeships outside the main Savile Row houses and there was a huge shortage of craftsman within the top tier of tailoring. The Savile Row Academy and Newham College have been set up with vital input from Savile Row –that’s made a huge change, as there’s far more interest in bespoke tailoring as a career.“

“The difference is that, before the students looking for work experience had very little technique, whereas now these colleges try to give them some training in sewing skills. That gives us the chance to establish their potential quickly and if necessary take them into a business and give them the training they need to get to an industry standard. It’s not just learning a craft, it’s taking it seriously as a career, because you don’t get into it for the money. You’ve got to make clothes for a living.”

Woods Bagot

Woods Bagot


Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan


“Our aim was to create a proper design studio rather than adapt to a typical office space.”

Design and creativity are two of my oldest passions; and more specifically architecture, though it’s often somewhat of a mystery to me. But it provides the perfect context for a romance between the two. Here in London as in cities across the globe, architects are the very backbone of our skylines, creating and crafting the wildest and most beautifully captivating structures that define the destinations we so often admire.

In Fitzrovia, I have come to discover that we are home to a global design and consulting firm with a wide-ranging and eclectic portfolio under its wing. Woods Bagot has a global team of over 850 professionals working across studios in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America. More than 60 of these are based in the practice’s London studio situated in Riding House Street. Fitzrovia is home to a diverse range of businesses, not only architects and engineers but also TV companies, fashion wholesalers and a vast range of other creative and digital businesses with Woods Bagot as an obvious fit for the neighbourhood.

In 2014 and 2015, Building Design’s ‘World Architecture 100’ ranked Woods Bagot as the 7th largest architecture firm in the world. The practice’s project output spans almost 150 years – a legacy of design excellence. In London, its clients include: The Edwardian Group, Warner Music, Firmdale, Apple, Ballymore, Pegasus Life, Four Seasons and Marriott. Their current projects include the Leicester Square Hotel, a landmark building integrated into the fabric of the West End cinema experience, with 360 guest rooms across 7 floors. A model of this project, which is currently on display at the studio (see above image) shows the main body of the building formed in natural Portland stone, complemented by an inner layer of royal blue faience, creating moments of colour and texture.

Woods Bagot’s expertise covers a number of key sectors including Transportation, Education, Science & Health, Lifestyle and Workplace. The ‘Next Generation Global Studio’ model which underpins all Woods Bagot’s activities means that all its studios worldwide are interlinked and work collaboratively across borders, using the latest technology to share its design intelligence and strengthen its knowledge base around the globe.

Working across the disciplines of architecture, consulting, interior design, masterplanning and urban design, Woods Bagot understands its clients’ operational and cultural needs, and is able to draw on its own research and expertise to create realistic and functional solutions to meet those needs. Currently the practice invests 2% of its turnover annually into its research arm, ensuring the upkeep of its competitive advantage through constant innovation.

Woods Bagot moved its London studio earlier this year to its current purpose-designed space at 75 Riding House Street across the lower ground and ground floors of the building, following a number of years based in Oxford Street. Jonathan French, the company’s director  says “The process of approving a design with colleagues, many of whom are professional designers themselves, was extremely complicated in order to reach a common consensus. The problem was deciding which great ideas we had to drop.”

The structure of the building itself posed particular challenges. The column grid and base building layout are irregular, making it difficult to optimise seating arrangements. The team created a layout that helps to maximise the opportunity offered by the street frontage, integrating clients into the studio environment and creating a flexible working setting. In addition to the existing staircase and lifts on the Foley Street side, a new second staircase now connects the ground and lower ground floors on the Riding House Street side. A kitchen and informal meeting area have been incorporated into spaces at the bottom of the staircase, helping to encourage movement between levels as well as greater interaction between clients and colleagues.

The reception area has been designed as a gallery space and is currently hosting work from artists who have worked with Woods Bagot in recent years. This space is also used every Friday evening for ‘London Salon’ presentations; a regular activity that helps to broaden design discourse in the London studio by engaging with contributors from a range of disciplines, including design. In June this year, the studio participated in the RIBA London Open Studios programme as part of the London Festival of Architecture by exhibiting the work of three contemporary artists. Attended by an array of architecture and design enthusiasts, the event also offered the Fitzrovia neighbourhood an introduction to the new Woods Bagot studio space.

“Our aim was to create a proper design studio rather than adapt to a typical office space. This is also a studio which is broadly aligned with — and complementary to — the design of other Woods Bagot studios across the world,” Jonathan French continues. “To help achieve this, we collaborated with designers across our Global Studio to ensure that the Woods Bagot ethos is embedded in the new space as strongly as possible.”

Picture

Picture


Words Kirk Truman

Photography John Carey


“We were welcomed by locals and other businesses with open arms and have felt part of a real community ever since. There is a charm to the area unlike most others in London.”

Now, I’m not one to pick favourites, but I must confess that my arm is somewhat bent when it comes to a certain modern European restaurant at 110 Great Portland Street. From an unforgettable à la carte menu to one of my favourite bars to sip carefully away at whiskey; some would regard this place as an emporium of upmarket British-European fare in a utilitarian-chic space with plastered walls. Though its founders prefer   the title Picture.

Picture opened its doors in 2013, founded by trio Tom Slegg, Alan Christie & Colin Kelly; restaurateurs with a diverse portfolio from front-of-house to fine dining. Front-of-house Tom who originated in Suffolk worked in restaurants in his home county from the age of 15. He moved to London in 2009 to work as a restaurant manager for the Michelin star rated Arbutus Restaurant Group. Chef Alan, originated from Aberdeen where he trained and worked. Moving to London in 2000, he worked at Putney Bridge Restaurant later working at Arbutus when it opened in 2006 where he became head chef in 2007. Chef Colin, originated from Tullamore, Ireland. He trained and worked in Dublin before moving to London in 2002. Colin worked at The Orrery restaurant before moving to Putney Bridge Restaurant then on to Arbutus Restaurant Group.

With the trio working within the same restaurant group (Arbutus) for a number of years, they shared a desire to begin their own venture. “We all got on well and had our own ambitions. It seemed the logical step to give it a go together and see what we could create. It has been a real bonus to have input from both front-of-house and the kitchen within the team” says Tom.

Location was first on the agenda for the trio, whose eyes were  initially drawn to the Soho neighbourhood. “Soho has such an amazing energy and has become a hub of fantastic restaurants. Unfortunately with that comes a price-tag that was above the budget of first time restaurateurs like ourselves!” says Tom. However they were swiftly drawn away from the Soho allure to the more exclusive postcode of Fitzrovia. “We loved the area. Fitzrovia and Great Portland Street has a lovely neighbourhood feel despite being so close to Oxford Street and all the hustle and bustle associated with it.” A site on Great Portland Street was soon suggested by an agent. It ticked all the boxes particularly  when it came to the size and feel. With the BBC and many other local businesses being so close by, they saw an opportunity which they knew would bring something new to the street.

Seeking to be in keeping with the area, the trio wanted to create a restaurant with a real neighbourhood feel. “Opening a restaurant in London today is tough – there is a concern that you need to be ‘on-trend’, that you need to ‘keep up or get forgotten’. We are all strong believers, however, that if you focus on serving the best food you can with genuinely warm hospitality you can’t go too far wrong. Our aim was to create an un-intimidating environment where people can have fun” says Tom. For some time, the owners were tossing and turning between names for the restaurant. Conclusively they decided on Picture a name evocative of the neighbourhood’s relationship with design and media.

Exquisite food and value for money embody the ethos behind the menu at Picture. From Pork cheek with kohlrabi, mustard seed and a Granny Smith apple to Hake brandade, brown shrimps, sea greens and sourdough croutons, the à la carte menu caters to a wide variety of tastes. The six course seasonal tasting menu (available at £39 per head) has proved particularly popular amongst regular diners and is a great way to sample all of their current dishes. “The food itself I suppose would be categorised as modern European. It is light and fresh and a lot of care is taken with the quality of the product coming in to the kitchen. The majority of our suppliers are London based but we also like to look a little further afield for produce that is really worth it. For example, the highest quality lamb from Elwy Valley in Wales has become a staple on our menu.” To add to the incredible menu and relaxed dining environment, Picture boasts a beautiful parquet-topped bar in a modern setting with a team of experienced bar tenders creating truly innovative cocktails.

Upon acquiring the site in 2013 the initial renovation took its toll on the overall budget. But welcomed entirely by locals and other businesses, Picture and its founding trio have felt part of a real community from the outset. “The area around us immediately seemed to be booming. When we opened we knew that we were taking a risk. Thankfully, we have seen other restaurants and bars arrive, adding a vibrancy to the area that can only mutually benefit our neighbours. We attract a lot of regular guests and are aware that this repeat business and word-of-mouth is what will keep us running successfully!” says Tom.

Picture, now an established part of Fitzrovia’s restaurant scene, always has an eye to improving their offerings and keeping their ideas fresh. The restaurant looks forward to many years ahead in the area and a potential expansion. “We are looking to open more restaurants in the future, and will probably stay as central as possible. There is no doubt however that we will always look at Fitzrovia as home.”

Nina Hamnett

Nina Hamnett


Words Darren Hawes

Illustrations Luke Stuart


“One had to do something to celebrate one’s freedom and escape from home.”

Serendipity occurs when we least expect it and for Nina it was in France, 1914. She had already earned a reputation in London and decided on a visit to Paris. Who should she run into but famed artist and central figure of the art world at the time, Amedeo Modigliani. Well, it wouldn’t be too long before fame came-a-knocking.

Primarily an artist, part-time writer, Nina existed in a space of her own. She not only crafted art, she lived art and played muse to some of the most important figures of the twentieth century. Born in the sleepy Pembrokeshire town of Tenby, Wales in 1890, Hamnett worked hard to escape a life in the doldrums and was never shy of standing out: “In the daytime, I wore a clergyman’s hat, a check coat and a skirt with red facings…I was stared at in the Tottenham Court Road! One had to do something to celebrate one’s freedom and escape from home.” Of course, it was her talent at painting that afforded Nina her freedom. At 16, Nina won a place at Pelham Art School. So, as any sane person wanting to embark in the world, she accepted and moved to London. She graduated in 1907 and went straight into studies at the London School of Art –finishing courses in 1910.

Nina had only one place to go from here: Paris. 1914 and Nina Hamnett found herself in the café La Rotonde. After a fortuitous meeting, Modigliani introduced the bright young thing to giants of the art world: Picasso, Diaghilev and Cocteau. It was within this group of bohemians that Nina was finally able to find a home and further develop her individuality. In this setting, Nina also met the man who would become her future husband, Norwegian artist Roald Kristian. This match was seen as somewhat unusual and Nina once remarked, of a painting done of the two by Walter Sickert, “We looked a picture of gloom.” This was also a period where Nina gained first-hand experience of the French avant-garde movement – one she would later, as a self-appointed ambassador, bring to the artistic communities of London.

Nina lived the next few decades of her life flitting between Paris and London, cementing a reputation for the avant-garde within both her art and lifestyle. She soon became known for her promiscuity: it is said that she would get drunk and tell everyone how Modigliani thought her to have the ‘best tits in Europe,’ proceeding to prove it. Most scandalous, of course, was her open admittance to being bisexual (an orientation unheard of in polite society). There is even an alleged fling with Vanessa Bell of the Bloomsbury group –although all signs point towards this rumour being propagated by Ms Hamnett herself.

In her book, Laughing Torso, Nina writes “One day somebody said, “You might get a job to paint furniture and do decorative work at the Omega Workshops in Fitzroy Square.” And so she spent some time working at the premises at 33 Fitzroy Square. Founded by artist and critic, Roger Fry, Omega Workshop was primarily intended to provide visual expression in textiles of the post-impressionist and modernist styles that were in vogue. For Nina Hamnett it was a way to make a living (yes, the workshop paid).

Nina’s roles were varied: one day she would be painting a mural or a lampshade, the next she could be found stitching together a cubist duvet. But, on top of this more creative role, she also sat as a model for the artists in the group. One piece in particular is the embodiment of the artistic community of the 1910s: a painting by Roger Fry, currently hanging in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, at the University of Leeds, shows Hamnett modelling an Omega Workshop dress designed by Vanessa Bell. Its use of colours and slightly off angles also makes for a prime example of post-impressionist portraits.

With her lavish lifestyle and numerous modelling jobs, it is sometimes hard to remember that Nina Hamnett was quite rightly a celebrated artist herself. In fact, she superseded some of her contemporaries, becoming celebrated in both Paris and London, with her paintings hanging in many galleries, from Salon d’Automne to The Royal Academy.

In Nina Hamnett, Queen of Bohemia, Denise Hooker explains “By the mid-thirties, Nina was producing very little work beyond quick portrait sketches in pencil or chalk… Always willing to tell another anecdote in return for the next drink. Gradually… the celebrated Reine de Bohème took over from the serious artist.”

Her adventures with fellow creative, all regulars at the Fitzroy Taven, gave the area its flair and bohemian style. Here, revelling in the lively atmosphere, she mixed with luminaries such as Augustus John, Jacob Epstein and even Aleister Crowley. Hamnett and Crowley’s encounters ranged from the purportedly intimate – he claims she shared a bed with her but was incredibly rude about the experience – to litigious, when in 1934 he sued her for claiming he practiced “black magic.” He lost the case but maybe some form of magic was involved because not long after, Nina’s life commenced a precipitous decline.

Unlike many of her contemporaries and friends – Fry, Picasso, Woolf – the Queen of Bohemia’s artistic reputation is sometimes overshadowed by the stories of her reckless behaviour in later years, from vomiting into a handbag to urinating in public. December 1956: Nina Hamnett was found impaled on spikes at the feet of her apartment building. Was she pushed? Did she drunkenly fall? Or was it suicide? Her last words, possibly hinting at how tired she was of living as a shadow of herself, furiously chasing her earlier fame and recognition… “Why won’t you let me die?”

The Omega Workshops

The Omega Workshops


Words Jane Singer

Illustrations Lucy Bayliss


“In so far as taste can be changed by one man, it was changed by Roger Fry” (Sir Kenneth Clark)

In 1913, the Omega Workshop was founded by Roger Fry and was based at 33 Fitzroy Square. In stripping away the divide between decorative and fine arts, Fry wanted firstly to introduce into the applied arts a Post-Impressionistic approach to design and colour and secondly, to provide a source of part-time work for impoverished artists. By the end of the 19th century the word “omega” was commonly used as meaning the last word on a subject, and many of Fry’s friends believed he chose this name to imply that the workshops were the last word in decorative art.

Roger Fry, artist and critic, was the most influential individual in the introduction of modern art to England at the start of the 20th century. It was his observation of Poiret’s École Martine in Paris, which he had visited in 1911, that contributed to his philanthropic notion to create the Omega Workshop. Poiret’s Atelier was established to encourage free activity in the decoration of objects, fabrics and furniture. Fry admired the simplicity and vivacity in the work produced there and a number of the early Omega works share these qualities.

Unlike the political and philosophical aims of William Morris’aesthetic in the 1880s and the more intellectually rigorous Bauhaus in Germany in 1919, Fry was more concerned with providing a situation where artists could enjoy absolute freedom from convention and infuse their work, and the making of it, with a sense of joy, which ultimately would be conveyed to the owner. On a commercial level, he was also aware of the need for a viable project, which enabled artists to earn money. In contrast to the Bauhaus, Fry did not attempt to forge closer ties between design and industry. He did, however, share Morris’ belief that machine-made objects suffered from a deadness and lack of humanity and admired the simplicity of design of the Bauhaus movement, believing that objects became impractical when they were very ornate.

Founding members of the Omega Workshop included Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It was established as a limited company, with shareholders, employees and a number of subcontracted craftsmen producing wares, offsite original Omega prices. At the height of their production artists included Wyndham Lewis, Frederick Etchells, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Winifred Gill, who ran the workshops from the start of the war until 1916. During 1913, Vanessa Bell, often described as the ‘matriarch of Bloomsbury’ because of her ability to organise the practical concerns of life, was a regular visitor to 33 Fitzroy Square. Her training and experience as a painter and her knowledge of Post-Impressionist theories of art (through Bloomsbury discussions with Roger Fry and her husband, Clive Bell) gave a sureness of touch to her work. Bell believed that the English were unable to appreciate simplicity or boldness in design. As a result the pieces she produced there were fresh, bold and unselfconscious. If the public lived with objects decorated by these artists, Fry believed, they could understand and appreciate post-impressionist paintings.

The Omega Workshop produce ranged from painted furniture to bead necklaces. One could find a Fauve shawl, a Post-Impressionist chair or a Cubist gown, all under one roof. 33 Fitzroy Square was where artists and wealthy buyers mingled and where artists’ designs were sold directly to the consumer. One of the defining features of the works was that they were sold anonymously, signed only with the symbol Ω, the Greek letter for Omega, creating a fair and level playing ground. Omega could also offer interior design and to that end, three rooms at 33 Fitzroy Square were decorated in the Omega style. In addition, artists worked a maximum of three-and-a-half days a week for thirty shillings. The Omega Workshop extended beyond the artistic and the organisation really was enjoyable and social; friendship was a key factor in the set-up.

When the Omega Workshop opened, it was viewed as scandalous, mainly by the press, who were still grappling with ideas of modern art. The boldness of the work offended numerous members of British society who preferred and valued the technical expertise and elaborate qualities of Morris designs or the elegance and subtlety of Edwardian décor. In the catalogue for the official opening in July 1913 Fry stressed the joviality and the enjoyment – experienced by the makers. The roughness in the final product assured against the emphasis on finish that Fry believed deadened the imaginative life; he did not value craftsmanship as such and did not share Morris’desire to revive the crafts. Any product that required skilled labour was sent out to craftsmen.

The limited concern for craft and finish, which was intended to preserve ‘the spontaneous freshness of peasant or primitive work while satisfying the needs and expressing the feelings of modern cultivated man’, resulted in a number of problems. Legs of tables or chairs sometimes fell off, and on one occasion, the paint on a set of outdoor furniture peeled off after the first shower of rain. The steep learning curve, which the artists experienced, was financially difficult to accommodate. In addition, the often bizarre and exuberant character of the Omega products, which only appealed to a small, wealthy avant-garde, meant that customers bought on a single occasion but usually did not go back. By 1915, Omega had branched out beyond household goods and started to introduce clothing into the repertoire, inspired by both the costumes of the Ballets Russes and Duncan Grant’s theatre designs. Avid supporters included the flamboyant dresser and socialite Ottoline Morrell and the famous bohemian artist Nina Hamnet who helped by modelling the clothes.

Artistic talent often breeds arrogance and resentment and none more so than from the British artist and writer Wyndham Lewis. Despite being an early member of The Omega Workshop, he quickly split away from the group in a dispute over Omega’s contribution to the Ideal Homes Exhibition. Lewis circulated a letter to all shareholders, making accusations against the company and Roger Fry in particular, and pouring scorn on the Omega’s products and ideology. He left the group, along with Frederick Etchells, Cuthbert Hamilton and Edward Wadsworth, to set up the Rebel Art Centre in opposition and competition. This subsequently led to his establishing the rival Vorticist movement and the publication in 1916 of its two-issue house magazine, Blast.

As early as 1914 there were financial problems and the war hastened Omega’s decline. By 1916, many of the artists were involved in the fighting or working out of London on various agricultural projects as conscientious objectors. Whilst Roger Fry continued to support Omega in London, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Charleston in Sussex, where they put their efforts into decorating the entire house in Omega style – an effort which is now maintained by the National Trust.

Despite its connections with high society patrons, the Workshops’ reputation suffered due to the fact that many of its products were poorly constructed. Although the Workshops managed to survive the war, increasing financial problems eventually forced their closure in June 1919. Ironically, Omega’s biggest commercial success was its final closing down sale, when everything went for half price.

The Omega Workshop had neither timing nor good management on its side. However, it opened opportunities for English artists and illustrators, who would have struggled to enter the commercial design business and established interior design as a legitimate artistic activity; its influence continued from the 1920s onwards.  And even more recently, many of its designs have served as inspiration for contemporary brands like Sanderson, Mulberry and Laura Ashley, bringing about a timely revival of the Omega Workshops’ creative output.