Return of the Soho fashion bookshops

Idea Books London

Interesting to see Soho (London) getting its retail groove back.

I noticed it in the summer with Machine A mark II, Marc Jacobs’ Heaven and Aries (so trendy, I was too intimidated to go inside). Now the niche fashion booksellers are coming back.

Idea Books just announced it’s opening its Wardour Street space to the public. Previously ‘by appointment’ only, it’s expanding to take up a much larger chunk of the building, which is located in the epicentre of Soho. And Isabella Burley’s Climax Books has just opened in Wardour Mews (Thursday-Saturday). Dealing in collectible vintage books and avant-garde erotica respectively, they’re bringing bookish fashionistas back to the beating heart of the city.

In the days when Central Saint Martins was located in Charing Cross Road, all the fashion students would flock to Borders for their expensive style zines (often consumed FOC with a two-hour coffee in Starbs upstairs). Or later, Claire de Rouen, which always had the most expensive best rare photo-books and never-heard-of indie mags that felt like an illicit purchase (especially when its location was hidden up the back stairs of a more risqué Soho establishment). Foyles has largely taken the place of Borders, while Tenderbooks nearby in Cecil Court is doing great things for independent art and photography book publishers, as well as its own experimental imprint.

Designers, photographers and stylists seem to have a special relationship to printed matter, perhaps because their jobs involve hand craft, tactility and considered decisions. Paging through a vintage copy of Lui or Ritz is a slow, sensorial pleasure, not a quick hit. Plus, the lingering nature of bookshop browsing means you never quite know who you’ll meet across those curated shelves, what conversations they’ll spark and what further discoveries they’ll lead to.

With high fashion becoming ever more expensive, books are a fairly affordable investment. Especially if you’re quick to nab a future collectible and even better if you can get to a signing. One look at the Bookmarc NYC queues for Steven Meisel’s Linda Evangelista superbook and Sofia Coppola’s ‘Archive’ book tells you all you need to know; the fashion bookstore is back in Vogue.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGE: Idea Books
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