We’ve joined forces with Pandora Sykes, journalist and co-host of popular podcast The High Low, to champion the British high street. Here, in her own words, she explores why shopping independent is now more important than ever.
The high street holds a nostalgic place in any Brit’s heart, but in recent years we have come to misunderstand it as a place only for gargantuan retail chains and mass consumption. Whilst it’s true that it’s harder than ever for boutiques to thrive thanks to a decrease in footfall, the consumer is also more invested than ever in a curated experience. We all want unique pieces and someone to cut through the stuff for us – whether that be for our home, wardrobe, or present drawer.
Thanks to Trouva, it’s actually easier than ever to support the localised high street and satisfy your appetite for unique objets. I like to sniff out the high street every time I visit a new town or city or I don’t feel like I’ve properly learned the essence of the place – for those less able to travel, Trouva does this for you by curating the best bits from over 500 bricks-and-mortar boutiques across the UK. Not only that, but they bolster the business of these indies by up to 90% (some boutiques think of Trouva as “paying their rent”) whilst keeping the curated heart of the brand – its physical space and shop window – open.
I interviewed the owners of three of Trouva’s most successful boutiques, who all champion their own definition of the high street. For Saskia Lamche, creative director of fashion boutique Diverse, this means bringing a sartorial alternative to what you might otherwise find on the high street. Contemporary brands like Ganni, Stine Goya and APC jostle for space in a shop that has been trading for 30 years – first, under the stewardship of Saskia’s parents in Islington, and now on a strip of colourful independents on Fortess Road in Tufnell Park. Over at The Restoration in Stoke Newington, a vast old ballroom stuffed with vintage furniture and retro lighting and accessories helmed by Sophie Jones and Spud MacBain, it all started when the couple were decorating their first home together 10 years ago and found a gap in the market. Foraging around fairs, they thought they couldn’t be the only people avoiding Ikea. And for Zoe Anderson at Shoreditch’s lifestyle store W.A.Green, the premise is a simple, feel-good one declared across the shop exterior: ‘dopamine for the home’. Covetable buys, an Ettore Sottsass-hued interior, and a commitment to supporting the other boutiques around it saw W.A.Green win Trouva’s ‘Boutique of the Year’ award for 2018. My time with its founder left me with no doubt as to why.
Exploring these three independents, it was clear that they offer a fresh take on the very experience of shopping. Their beautiful shop spaces, interesting shopkeepers and distinctive products are a far cry from the images of identikit chains that the phrase ‘British High Street’ can conjure. So let’s support small businesses, let’s foster independent spirit, and (of course) let’s uncover some unique finds along the way.