Love at Darkroom

If you haven’t heard of accessories store Darkroom London, you soon will. Cleverly situated amongst Bloomsbury’s art students and book designers, the store boasts a dedicated army of followers rapidly growing in numbers. The brainchild of Rhonda Drakeford, co-founder of graphic design studio Multistorey, and fashion designer Lulu Roper-Caldbeck, the pair have weaved a bold mix of art with interior design for this concept store.

“We like quite hard-edged designs,” says Drakeford. “It’s all quite graphic, modern textural pieces.”

And from February 2 to 14, the company will be hosting a sale exhibition of valentine hearts. Over fifty artists have submitted works to be sold in its Love From Darkroom exhibition in aid of charity Kids Company. The event follows on from last year’s sell-out show For Love & Haiti which raised over £3000 for the Haiti Earthquake appeal.

Katie Hillier

Available to buy are intricately designed copper hearts by Katie Hillier, an accessory designer whose works have graced the catwalk collections of Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, to photographic pieces by stylist Nancy Rohde, and a hand stitched love heart in white, red, and black, by jewellery designer Eleanor Bolton.  The impressive list also includes paper artist Rob Ryan, milliner Noel Stewart and accessories designer Kuni Awai.

The brief given to the designers was simple. Create a piece of artwork based on the heart, black and white, plus one colour, and no bigger than A1 in format size.

“It’s quite nice how everyone’s interpreted it in different ways,” explains Drakeford.

Designers were also given the reigns to work outside of their own medium, “so if you were a jeweller that wanted to do a painting that was fine,” she says.

Carolyn Massey

While some artists have produced artworks that is very much indicative of their field; others have taken it as an opportunity to have fun, as reflected in menswear designer Carolyn Massey’s painting The Heart Is Dark. It fits in with the store’s willingness to explore the marring of design processes and how a piece of jewellery can be hung up as wall art.

“We quite like different processes used in different ways so a piece of jewellery that might be made in the way you would make ceramics or vice versa,” adds Drakeford.

The artworks are being sold for £150 each.

“We call it Love from Darkroom because it works both ways in that the public get a chance to buy a piece [of artwork] by a really unusual selection of artists and also they are more likely to sell as well, leading to better profits for the charity,” says Drakeford.

Eleanor Bolton

The duo travel extensively to source stock for the store: resulting in an international mix of bags from Ethiopia, jewellery from Paris, to handmade leather belts from Liverpool. Its mix of designers range from leather accessories label Fleet Ilya to Austrian jewellery designer Florian, whose big graphic costume-jewellery pieces using beads and climbing ropes give the store its unique art and textural mix.

“We had an Africa inspired season last year and we’ve got an upcoming Aztec inspired season so we mix ethnic pieces in with modern to create an interesting pacing as well,” says Drakeford.

The Love From Darkroom is in line with the store’s ethos of showcasing exhibits every few months to tie-in with current stock.

“It’s quite nice to show art in a different environment other than a gallery.”

Love From Darkroom runs until 14 Feb, Darkroom London, 52 Lamb’s Conduit St, London, WC1N 3LL, Nearest tubes, Holborn, Russell Square

Words: Nosmot Gbadamosi