Big Ben, the Queen, the Eye — these are the images of London featured so prominently during the Olympics. A London of proud tradition. But as a teen in the 90s, my idea of London was louder, sexier, and far more subversive. I was introduced to the style of London through the music of London, from punk and mod to Britpop and electronica. In keeping with the current coverage of this great city, I'd like to tip my own hat to London style. Less Charles. More Bowie. Let's do it.
Pulsing clubs, damp pubs, endlessly innovative shops, boys so chic they're pretty and girls so effortlessly cool they look like they're beamed in from the future, that's the London I got to know on the trips my best friend and I took, beginning when we were 18 and on into our 20s. We couldn't afford to buy anything (except beer, records, and McVitties), but spending so much time in London's shops and street markets taught me a lot about smart, fearless design and the way music and style inspire and drive each other.
The following gallery features London-based shops and designers paired with kindred musical matches.
1. Blur and tripod floor lamp from online UK retailer Rockett St George. Blur started off as a poppy Britpop band in the early 90s but soon gained recognition for their smart song construction and soulful commentary on modern life. In the same vein, Rockett St George features contemporary design-driven pieces that are clever without being cute.
2. David Bowie and London-based textile and ceramics designer Donna Wilson. Bowie and Wilson both embody a delightful oddness that's a bit sweet and a bit dark. It's an intriguing combination.
3. Pulp and plump sofa by Tom Dixon. When I think of Pulp, I think of Jarvis Cocker, and when I think of Jarvis Cocker, I think of velvet jackets. I set out to find Jarvis Cocker's velvet jacket in sofa form, and I think I'm spot on with this luxe number by British furniture manufacturer Tom Dixon.
4. The Kinks and Saatchi Online. Ah, The Kinks. Who shreds guitars and dishes out mod irreverence like no tomorrow? The Kinks, that's who. Saatchi Gallery has been proverbially shredding guitars for over 25 years by featuring artists who routinely extend the boundaries of the modern art scene. Saatchi now has an online gallery, where visitors can purchase prints (at very reasonable prices!) from modern artists, such as this work by Joe Webb.
5. Siouxsie and the Banshees and Riviera Jais cushion, available at Liberty London. When I was a teenager, I thought Siouxsie Siox was it. Glam, cool, and a little edgy. If you want to find glam, cool, and a little edgy for your home, check out Liberty London.
6. The Smiths and The Dog and Wardrobe. The wistful, jangling music of The Smiths feels in keeping with the vintage industrial nature of The Dog and Wardrobe, located in London's East End. Both reflect the way life in the city — it isn't always shiny and perfect, but if you look a little deeper, there's often beauty hiding in the gray and decay.
7. The Jam and "Union Jack" wall decor by Vivienne Westwood. The Jam and Vivienne Westwood are music and design partners in crime in that they were all trailblazers in England's 1970's punk scene. Westwood is now a Dame of the British Empire and Paul Weller is a successful solo act, but their legacy looms large for those who are punks and punks at heart.
8. Portishead and vintage patchwork rug from Bazaar Velvet. Ok, technically Portishead is from Bristol, but it seemed as though their music spilled out of every shop in London in the late 1990s. Soft and a bit trippy, the tranquility of Portishead seems to be reflected in this gorgeous rug from London's Bazaar Velvet. Bazaar Velvet also participates in the Good Weave program, dedicated to ending child labor in the textile industry.
9. Nick Drake and East London Furniture. Pure, stripped down, and honest, that's the music of Nick Drake, whose brief career in the London folk scene was cut short by his tragic death at only 26. Purity of spirit also runs deep at the East London Furniture company, where all the furniture is hand crafted using 100% reclaimed materials.
10. Bibio and Rough Trade Records. London is a city of clubs, and crate digging, record buying, and music sampling are a big part of the culture. Spending time in London gave me a deep appreciation for music exploration and has inspired my continual drive to seek out new music to fill my home and my life. Bibio is an artist I discovered on a recent record shopping trip, and I have the record stores of London to thank for turning me on to the excitement of discovering new music.
(Images: Album cover images property of respective labels; Product and shop images as linked above)