Tucked away in Shoreditch, lives one of London’s most exciting concept stores. 123. Offering beautifully crafted, locally sourced British clothing and accessories, as well as homeware and other trinkets, the main ethos of 123 is anti-mass production: British and vintage sourcing and recycling. Micaela Phillipo, representative for 123, tells us more:
What was the philosophy behind 123?
Our philosophy is simple. We want to create 100% sustainable clothing that is fashionable, stylish and hand- made. We want to keep the whole manufacturing process local and so, do not outsource any labour nor materials. In store we will be stocking a range of products, home-wares and art that have all been made by locally based brands and artists. We want 123 to be a store where you can rest assured, knowing that everything stocked has been manufactured in, if not London, certainly the UK.
What has the reaction been to it?
The reaction has been overwhelming. In the weeks after opening, we were featured on Dazed Digital, iD online and Vogue. More recently we were voted Time Out’s best new shop 2011! It seems that people are really positive about making changes in the fashion industry and exposing the lack of necessity for mass production and exploitation of cheap labour found outside of the UK.
What are your policies for vetting labels you stock?
We initially aspired to be a concept store, stocking entirely eco brands, products made in a sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner. However, as the store evolved, and we began carefully curating a stock of products from art to gifts, home-wares and jewellery, we wanted to emphasise the subtext of the 123 philosophy; ‘Made in London’. We feel that as much as the use of sustainable material in manufacturing is important, so is keeping the whole process local. All labels stocked at 123 will be London based and made within the UK.
Which ethical brands do you stock and why?
At the moment, the main brand we stock is ‘NHS’. The designer, Dr. Noki, is famed for creating one-off couture garments through a process of deconstruction and rearticulation. At 123, we exclusively stock his diffusion line, which takes your conventional T shirt, collared shirt or sweater, and carefully takes it apart, piecing it back together with embellishments and screen prints.
All of the fabrics used by Dr Noki are sourced from our own warehouse of recycled fabrics and manufacturing occurs around the corner from the 123 store.
We also stock the D.R. Harris ‘Naturals’ range, beauty products constituted entirely of natural ingredients and made in England. Also, Jonathan Ward artisan candles, made in London, 100% organic and contained in a recyclable glass, and Miller Harris perfumes, all made in London with natural ingredients.
What sort of wholesale price points are you looking for from brands you stock?
We have learned, through our 123 range, that hand-made, high quality garments end up with a higher than average production cost. We try to keep our price points affordable as we do not believe in alienating our customer, denying them the opportunity to own a sustainable garment. We look to sell brands with an opening retail price point of £50 and closing at £400.
Who is your target audience?
At the moment, the 123 label is exclusively womenswear, however, we stock premium vintage for Men and the Noki label also caters for your more creatively attired man. We are opening the scope for products we stock so the store can be a destination for tourists looking to buy something especially made in London or your average person looking for an affordable but luxury gift. We are also targeting fashion conscious individuals who want to wear something different, a timeless item which wouldn’t be disposed of at the end of the season. Our audience is diverse but we are mostly targeting the intelligent consumer.
Do you feel like your location is key to your identity?
Our location is intrinsic to our brand identity. The parent company of 123, LMB, has its roots in East London where the textile recycling factory used to be. The Grade II listed building we occupy on Bethnal Green Road has it’s own history which gives it landmark status in the area. It was once a front for an illegal gun trading racket and after the owners were sentenced to jail, the building fell into disrepair. When we bought the building, it needed complete renovation, and this way we have effectively recycled the space which would have otherwise been demolished.
Do you have any further plans to expand?
Yes, at the moment we are working on our tea room which is in the basement of our store. We will be serving tea and coffee and locally baked cakes and breads, freshly made sandwiches and selling food and drink products sourced from around London. We will be using this space to stock a selection of books, tea sets, antique furniture and 123 label home-wares.
Also, we are currently building the ‘scout hut’, which is the large warehouse space behind our shop. We want to help local designers by providing an outlet to retail their products.
123, 123 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch E2 7DG. Interview by Saskia Verhagen.