Welcome in to Darkroom, a concept boutique situated in the heart of Bloomsbury, London. Explore everything from interior, unique accessories, sculptures to magazines. You will find an eclectic mix of 60 different labels, from unknown emerging designers to established high end brands. The brand portfolio includes Fleet Llila, Jonathan Saunders, Scott Wilson and Florian. Darkroom is also stocking Maria Francesca Pepe´s line of jewellery, which is one of the designers VFS has showcased through the years.
The concept is built on a cross between fashion and art, showcased in unconventional contexts. Darkroom aims to stretch the boundaries between art and design and remove the gap by displaying functional objects as a pieces of art.
VFS decided to go and have a look for ourselves and of course share with our friends and family, meaning you guys. We sat down one rainy afternoon in June and had a chat with the charming Lulu Roper-Caldbeck, the founder and owner, together with her business partner Rhonda Drakeford.
What is the concept behind Darkroom and how did the business start?
The idea is to specialise in accessories for men, women and the home. Our products are generally hard to find anywhere else and unique to us. Me and my business partner Rhonda, was working on a home textile project together and started to look for a space where we could showcase our products. We found this beautiful venue in Bloomsbury and decided to expand our business with other brands and designers. So we started to develop our idea and we ended up with the concept you see today, Darkroom.
Who is the main Darkroom customer?
We started of by expecting customers in our own age, but has with time seen a very large age span, everything from students in their twenties from Central Saint Martins Art College which is located only a few minutes away, to the local pensioner in their seventies. The interest in art, fashion and interior is what combines them. The area, Bloomsbury, attracts mixed individuals and personalities. You can find law offices on one street parallel to a street with independent boutiques in the creative industry, it is a mix of high and low.
What is the price point of your products?
The price point is as wide as our product range. We have products on a low entry level, a customer can get stationary pieces for 10 pounds but can also find interior with a price tag of 800 pounds. We want everyone to be able to be a part of Darkroom, that is why we have this wide price architecture.
What kind of pieces do your customer tend to buy?
Our own line with cushions has been a big seller. We also design one-off vintage pieces and interior accessories that goes in line with the new Darkroom aesthetic. Looking at the jewellery, the fantasy and imagination inspired pieces from Florian has been really popular.
What are you looking for when acquiring new designers to your store?
We come up with a theme each season which guides us when looking for new designers. Our theme for the summer is ”Astec Camera” which refers to the Aztec Indian culture of South America. Geometrical shapes, pom poms and metal brass and copper is seen in our current product range. We get a lot of designer popping in to the store and showing their portfolio and we take it from there.
We prefer to buy small quantities of a large number of designers instead of buying masses, that is one of the core beliefs of the business.
We also visit a large number of trade fares in Paris, to spot new designers. Rhonda and me are together head of buying, actually head of everything that involves Darkroom, says Lulu and laughs.
What are your terms and conditions of buying from a designer?
It various depending on the product and designer. We tend to have jewellery designers on consignment for a couple of seasons. As we are not working with only fashion, that is a highly seasonal product, we usually work with sell and return for a longer period than a season.
What are your future plans for Darkroom?
We are trying to push our own ranges and develop them even further. We are now producing the major part in the UK but is seeking other European producers. The online sales is also an important part of the future, therefore we are constantly trying to build it up.
What inspired you for the store interior?
We wanted to keep the interior black, which frames our products well. As our products are made in different textures, colours and materials we thought it would work well together with shiny black cubes. The cubes are also freestanding which makes it easy to adjust and change for each season theme.
Finally, what are you playing in store right now?
The album is called Memory Tapes.
For more information, please visit their website here.
52, LAMB´S CONDUIT ST,
LONDON, WC1N 3LL
T: +44 (0)20 7831 7244
By Yohanna Mannelqvist