Monday, October 17, 2011


Posted by Fashion Junior at Large

I'm not going to pretend that I am in any way 'typical' of the visitors which you might expect to encounter if you visit Couverture and the Garbstore. For one, I get lost between Notting Hill Gate and Ladbroke Grove tube stations but I am also not in possession of a brood of adorable children nor a husband to deposit in the menswear section. However, I wouldn't let any of that put you off paying a visit to the store which is located a stone's throw from The Travel Bookshop which has come to symbolise the heart of the Notting Hill independent shop culture.

Couverture was established by Emily Dyson (daughter of the famous James) back in 1999 and moved from Chelsea to its current location in 2008. The Garbstore is the brainchild of Dyson's husband, Ian Paley, and is a far newer venture which brings a menswear element to Emily's womenswear/ home/ childrenswear concept. I'm told that whole families descend on the three floor space on a Saturday morning and disperse to their respective spaces to hunt out pieces from Emily and Ian's careful edit. Their joint online store launched just six months ago. It must be said though that Emily and Ian work completely separately from one another, with Emily preferring to take her buyer Hayley on sourcing trips around the world. It is by virtue of their complementary tastes that the two businesses sit well together under the same roof.
 When I visited the store, I could see its draw for families after something special but personally, I honed in on the products themselves many of which appealed to me despite my falling into quite a different demographic. Over 50% of labels in the store are UK exclusives and none of them are likely to be found in a big department store nor in great quantities online; this means that you are very unlikely to see anyone with the same item elsewhere; unless you live in Notting Hill and invite your neighbour over I suppose, although I'm sure the excellent girls in the shop would ensure that never happened!
Rings by Andy Lifschutz
Given that Emily and Hayley literally scour the world for their selection, it is natural that each brand stocked seems to have that precious 'story' which is so appealing to buy into. One of the best examples is Andy Lifschutz whose jewellery is stocked exclusively in the UK by Couverture. Andy lives in Arkansas in the US and finds pieces of 'raw' quartz which he then transforms from rocks to jagged gems and then, using reclaimed metals, into pieces which range from dramatic to delicate. For jewellery made in such an organic way the prices are rather impressive, starting at £199. We like.
 I'm not one to get excited about pants and bras but I was really drawn to the VPL line (brilliant name, no?) which is described as 'anti-underwear'; Victoria's Secret this is not. I could almost see these as bikinis, or for the likes of Rihanna, actual outfits. This brand is already well-known in the US where it is worn by the likes of Gwen Stefani and Tilda Swinton, although it was started by British born Victoria Bartlett. I've been having a look at Bartlett's recent New York show and feel like her sporty aesthetic might have a moment next Summer.
Prices start at £70

VPL SS12- The models in this show look super fit and athletic, not a flimsy little lady in sight.
A Detacher AW11
 Mona Kowalska's A Detacher is exactly the kind of label which keeps Couverture's core customer coming back, it has just enough of a trend element to look completely modern but the pieces themselves are hard to pinpoint and not widely available or recognised. The coat above (or one very similar) in navy was top of my 'what I would buy' list when I visited but the printed dropped waist tea dresses were also taking pride of place among the sedate knitwear which dominated the display.
A Detacher AW11- prices from £80-£200
Lastly, the store is currently dotted with these plates from 'Made in Scandinavia'- although they prove that you don't always have to go far afield to source beautiful products, these are made in London, not far from the store by a collective of artists from, er, Scandinavia. Cute. I should also add that that although most items are pretty pricey there are also lots of little bits and bobs which won't break the bank and mean you can bring a piece of Couverture home with you. Also, although the website has a great selection there are lots of different things to be found in-store so try to pop in!

Plates are £35 each
Couverture and The Garbstore is at 188, Kensington Park Road. Call 020 7229 2178

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