Store profile: Village Bicycle
Weird and wonderful knick-knacks add to Village Bicycle's fun and edgy appeal. WWB learns more.
Village Bicycle may well be one of the most exciting fashion indies to have sprung up in London recently, offering a fun and edgy fusion of ultra cool fashion, music and art - as well as a sprinkling of weird and wonderful knick-knacks.
WWB's Isabella Griffiths finds out more, by talking to owner Willa Keswick (pictured).
Notting Hill boutique Village Bicycle is the punk rock of retail. Edgy, über-cool and that little bit rebellious, the shop breaks with conventional fashion-store rules and offers retail theatre at its best.
On entering the two-storey building, the quirky interior of pink and glass fittings is juxtaposed against contemporary artwork and shelves with eclectic knick-knacks, while the wall leading up the stairs to the second floor is covered with neon hearts interspersed with shelves of edgy shoes, which themselves look like artwork.
One would be forgiven for thinking it’s an art gallery and, indeed at Village Bicycle, fashion fuses with art, music, popular culture and much more.
The store is the realisation of a childhood dream for owner Willa Keswick, who opened the doors to her “sweetshop” in May 2011.
“As clichéd as it sounds, I’ve always wanted to have my own shop and offer something for everyone,” she says. “As a child growing up inLondon, I loved hanging out at Frog Hollow, a shop onKensington High Streetthat had everything from stickers through lollipops to fairy lights and more, and it’s always inspired me.
“I always wanted to do something like that and, when I was 15, my dad registered the name Village Bicycle for me because I knew that, whatever I’d end up doing, that would be the brand,” Keswick continues.
“The name is tongue-in-cheek and intriguing. People often think we’re a bike shop, which is quite funny, and it shows we don’t take fashion or ourselves too seriously.”
Fittingly, Village Bicycle stocks clothing, shoes, jewellery and accessories from It labels such as Bash, Alice McCall, April May, Ashish, Dirty Pretty Things, Hanky Panky, American Retro, House o fHolland, Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony, Eleven Paris, Mark Fast, Felder Felder, Surface to Air and Terry de Havilland, and often offers designer collaborations exclusive to the store.
So far, so fashion, but the product selection doesn’t stop there. Shoppers can also rummage around to find candles by Lucien Pellat-Finet, wooden skeleton figurines, lighters with images such as Michael Jackson and Black Sabbath, skull telephones, lip telephones, ceramic skulls, books, plates with naked ladies, rabbit and robot lamps as well as a range of gadgets from Japan.
“We’re a one-stop destination store,” says Keswick. “I wanted it to be accessible and aspirational, a place where people can come in and pick up a lollipop or knick-knack for £2 but, as they grow older and get better jobs, they can also spend their money on an investment piece. I wanted our customers to be able to grow with and into the brand.
“Initially, we had a product range that ranged from £2 to £2,000, but now our core is from £2 to £600, with a few more expensive one-off pieces. I find that people save up for things when they really love them.”
Village Bicycle’s main customer demographic is 16-25 at the core, though Keswick concedes there is no real ceiling in terms of the age of the people who step through its doors.
Celebrity endorsement is high on Keswick’s agenda, and the shop regularly kits out girls du jour including Jessie J, Rita Ora and Eliza Doolittle. “A lot of our customers are inspired by celebrities and media,” says Keswick. “Of course, we get the odd stylist come in with a unique take on things but, overall, the masses follow a celebrity culture, and we are tapping into that.”
Last month, Keswick launched her website, a virtual platform that extends the Village Bicycle experience to the net and offers shoppers round the clock access to the VB World.
In addition to the e-commerce side, VB World features an interactive e-zine, showcasing a fast-paced mix of global fashion, art, music, culture, people, parties, celebrity interviews, music from up-and-coming talents, downloadable DJ and model-curated playlists, access to VIP gigs and exclusive festival tickets.
On and offline, Village Bicycle also sells the work of up-and-coming artists curated by Scream Gallery London, who Keswick works closely with. All of this accumulates into a fun and creative shopping experience, but also helps put Village Bicycle on the map.
“Fashion, art and music are interlinked, and it adds another dimension and generates more hits than just a normal e-commerce website so, commercially, it’s become an important element, too, and we work hard at keeping it up-to-date,” says Keswick.
At 26 years of age, Keswick herself represents the young and hip clientele she’s targeting, but she’s also got solid retail experience under her belt. Having studied at the London College of Fashion and London’s American Intercontinental University, she finished her education with a business course at Portobello Business Centre.
Keswick also worked in fashion and celebrity PR before working as a buyer for an international store inSingapore, where she introduced a number ofUKbrands to the Asian market.
Just over a year into her own venture, she’s clearly determined to make it a success. “Of course, it’s tough out there at the moment, and the first year has been difficult, I won’t deny it,” says Keswick. “But I didn’t expect it not to be tough. These days, you need more drive, you constantly have to have new ideas and develop. I work from 9am until 11pm most nights to keep all the balls in the air, but that’s just how it is.”
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the next chapter in Village Bicycle’s quirky product range is already in the making – Keswick’s own Village Bicycle collection. And, of course, it will be nothing less than edgy, quirky and cool – just like the shop.
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