London-based retail maverick Alex Eagle's lovingly decorated, disarmingly inviting spaces are so effortlessly strewn with beautiful things – from fine art to carefully curated photo books, vintage furniture and cult clothing brands – that visiting feels like stepping into her living room. Actually, in the case of her main store, on London’s Lexington Street, it almost is – she lives round the corner, and often rotates pieces from there to the shop floor (and back again). But her distinctive bricks-and-mortar philosophy extends way beyond Soho, encompassing two The Store x Soho House spaces in Oxfordshire and Berlin, as well as The Store at 180 the Strand – an integrated work space, studio complex and creative hub.
Adam Welch: Have you always been a bit of a magpie?
Alex Eagle: I went back to my parents' house recently and it didn't feel that different to my life now. On my shelves there were loads of art books, loads of photo books – a mixture of different things that I picked up as a teenager and still reference today. I’ve always collected things, practical pieces as well as decorative – books, wooden boxes, even thimbles. And I’ve always cared about finding things that last. One of my most treasured pieces of jewellery is a silver and wooden bangle that I found many years ago.
AW: What was it that drew you into retail?
AE: It all comes back to when I was working at Harper's Bazaar. I started styling people outside the pages of the magazine and people would come back to my flat and say, ‘Oh, I like your mirror', 'I like your coffee table', and 'that's a nice print’. I started selling pieces from my walls, and then I got an opportunity to have my first shop on Walton Street in Chelsea, where I lived at the time, and the idea was to almost recreate my flat and make it all for sale. It was never going to be a fashion shop. It was always going to be a shoppable home.
AW: What do you feel is the point of a bricks-and-mortar store these days when you can buy so much online?
AE: Funnily enough I think it's about non-shopping. Originally, non-shopping meant going online. You didn't have to buy anything. But I think now when I go online I don't go to browse, I go because I have got a son and I know I want to get him this sweet little babygrow. Or I'm going on Net-a-Porter because they have this lovely Rahua shampoo and conditioner and it arrives the next day. Non-shopping started to be something that needed to become offline. A little like going to a gallery, it's going somewhere which has a nice scent, which has some music... A vibe.
"Soho has always been the eye of London’s creative storm. It’s timeless – it’s where ideas are hatched and things get made, new food, new fashion, new art, new entertainment. I like to think that my shop is an expression of this idea."
AW: Was it important to you that the Alex Eagle store in Soho drew from its surroundings and contributed to the neighbourhood?
AE: Absolutely, Soho has always been the eye of London’s creative storm. It’s timeless like that. It’s where ideas are hatched and things get made - new food, new fashion, new art, new entertainment. I like to think that my shop is an expression of this idea, bringing together different elements and presenting them in a way that feels like an experience - offering the latest pieces, timeless works and rediscovered classics. It’s part of the constant thrum of energy that infuses this area and makes it so exciting to live and work in.
AW: How do you go about sourcing products?
AE: Travelling. Looking, all the time. I'm constantly looking, wherever I am.
AW: Do you ever have a hard time letting things go?
AE: It's a constant joke. I don't really, because that's the whole reason I made the shop. But some things are harder to let go of. I'm sentimental about furniture, where you find it and the story behind it. But I think that's why I've got clients who come back again and again, because I really, really care about each and every piece.
AW: What's the last thing that you bought for yourself?
AE: Some William Welstead hammered silver beakers that he makes for my shop. I buy a couple of them once in a while, it’s nice to reward yourself with something that adds to your collection. I use them for everything – serving water or champagne, or I sometimes put my toothbrush in them. I also bought some sets of this brand called MV Organic Skincare – a line that we have in my shop. I'm getting addicted. There's a face mist that I never knew I needed in my life. Face mist, I mean... But it's something that really cheers me up and makes me feel really good. And that's luxury.
AW: What is next in store for Alex Eagle and The Stores?
AE: Working on my private fashion label is a big push for me next, we're going to offer bespoke services as well. Soho is so close to Savile Row, and in the '60s and '70s Carnaby Street was famous for selling one-off, exclusive, limited-edition shirts that were made in the back of the shop. I really love that idea and I wanted to bring that essence – made in England, made on site – back. I've got the luxury of having my own studio, and trying to find factories in England to make things for me was so hard, that I thought, 'Well, I'll just make them myself.' The price in luxury fashion nowadays is so high that you can get things made for a similar cost. So why not just offer that?