Giant, vibrantly coloured maps cover the shop window, while a retro-looking bicycle quietly awaits the next customer inside, leaning over a tall chair and a black pair of shoes. The small, intimate space blends perfectly with the bohemian east London vibe, but contrasts heavily with the grayness of the area.
‘Tools’ is the name of the shop, located on a quiet street in the heart of the Brick Lane area, and established 16 months ago by Melody Bastide, a 32 year old French fashion and textile designer.
“My job is to find very special things, very unusual. I think I have a passion to find things, but the other passion is to display them. I like to play with the objects inside,” says Bastide.
The French designer grew up in Brittany, a region in north-west France, but lived most of her life in Lille, before moving to London to open the shop.
‘Tools’ started off with a few maps, bought from different parts of the world, but turned soon after into a shop that offers a range of more than one thousand items – anything from textiles, fabrics and old papers, to designer products like shoes and bags.
“I think most people come here for the maps, but it’s also the unusual objects that they look for,” says Bastide.
The designer’s interest in selling maps began when she brought one for a friend in London. “All English eyes were fixed on the map,” she says. She realised it would be possible to open a shop in London and make a living out of it, but her passion is equally important: “I think I’m just attached to something coming from my childhood. I always find more and more beautiful maps and I love discovering them. Time and light gives them beauty.”
Although many people refer to the items found in Tools as ‘vintage’ or ‘second-hand’, Bastide says she dislikes these terms. “Sometimes I actually buy brand new objects,” she says, looking at a pair of white flats that she bought from a High Street retailer. Even though she would have liked to keep the shoes for herself, Bastide believes the shop needs them more.
Apart from selling designer made objects, and items bought from different places, like the Brick Lane market (“not because it’s less expensive, but because I like finding things”), Tools is also a place where the designer unveils her own work. She said: “I have created a few things by myself a long time ago, because I like graphics, I like fashion, so I make a collection and work on little things like pictures or dressing dolls using fabric.”
In between unique books, old dolls and interesting shoes, one might ask: what is the most expensive thing in the shop? “There is a map worth about nine hundred pounds,” says Bastide. The ‘map’, as the designer calls it, is in fact a black and white science poster used for school education. “It is about 80 years old, still fashionable, hard to find, and in good condition. The graphics and the aesthetic value are very interesting. These posters are authentic, they are pieces of history. Maybe it’s crazy, but I don’t want to give it away for nothing.”
Find Tools at:
32 Cheshire Road, E2 6EH and here.