Thursday, 26 May 2011

Shopkeeper of the Week - Olive Loves Alfie

In a world where it's possible to buy an outfit for a child for under £5 it's important to offer an alternative, more ethical choice. Considering the origins of each piece, whilst remaining fun and exciting without being too expensive is not an easy thing to pull off, but children's lifestyle shop Olive Loves Alfie seem to do it with ease - and browsing their online shop is addictive.
It's a bit of a cliche to say 'I wish they did that in my size' but this is exactly what we scream when we look at the coral floral dress, dip-dyed vintage frock and butterfly leggings.

But have no fear, founder Ashlyn Gibson has responded to this desire and added a collection of adult sized Marimekko clothes - so now both mother and child will look equally wonderful!

We take a few moments out with Ashlyn to take quick peek into her world.

How would you describe your shop?

It's like my home, full of colour and print with an eclectic sense of style

Who/what are your biggest influences?

I have been collecting things for as long as i can remember and rarely go out without a camera so my influences are far and wide.
olive's quirky individual style (my 8 year old daughter) is a major influence on the children's clothing that I buy for my store.

What is your favourite item from your current collection?

The liberty print floral cushion from la cerise sur le gateau
and the new Plivi bag from Marimekko and the balloon dress from mini rodini.

Where is your favourite place(s) to visit for inspiration?

It could be one of so many places. Solitude and stillness play a valuable role in inspiration. Being able to free your mind and begin on something new with a blank canvas is incredibly valuable.

I love staying in my mums beach hut in The Hebrides where I feel humbled by the vastness of the sky and in awe of the ever changing sea. It is always the calm before a new project.

Do you have any new items/collections about to be launched?

Lucky boy Sunday...a wonderfully individual range of keepsake toys and homewares from Denmark.
Plus the Marimekko womenswear high summer collection.

What do you enjoy most about being one of the shops in The Secret Arcade?

it's a great endorsement for any independent retailer because it embraces individuality and acknowledges originality by selecting the very best of UK online retailers.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Shopkeeper of the Week - Dark Horse + 20% Off Offer

The name Dark Horse is such a clever name for Jenny Hattersley's jewellery label. Not only is the term Dark horse used to describe something which is little-known but then emerges to prominence (which she is quickly doing), it also alludes to the collection's equestrian inspiration.

Describing herself as having "an almighty passion for haberdashery" Jenny uses traditional saddlery techniques and mixes leathers with a wide variety of contrasting materials (think giant chandelier crystals, glitter and dip-dyed silk fringing) to create statement pieces that appear both historical and futuristic.

Our favourite piece from the current collection is the Art Deco Bow Necklace which reminds us of the classic 1927 film Metropolis, and as Jenny is generously offering all Secret Arcade visitors 20% off* all items in her shop we might just treat ourselves.

We drag jenny away from the sewing machine for few moments to talk to us about her inspirations...

How would you describe your shop?

An eclectic mix of unique statement jewellery and accessories which are handcrafted from premium leather and fine haberdashery trims. Inspired by English eccentricities, each piece fuses traditional techniques with fashion-forward styling.

Who/what are your biggest influences?

Mother nature, rock & roll, colour and print.

What is your favourite item from your current collection?

The tassel necklaces,- they're so versatile and will transform any outfit!

Where is your favourite place(s) to visit for inspiration?

Out-of-season seaside towns with that great British combination of blustery beaches, tea rooms and charity shops for inspirational finds.

Do you have any new items/collections about to be launched?

Yes, all my summer pieces are blossoming now - on the whole I've gone for a much more decadent feel this season using my trademark neutrals with floral brights, heavy embellishment and fringe accents.

What do you enjoy most about being one of the shops in The Secret Arcade?

The Arcade concept really suits my work with it's angle on tradition, quality and heritage and the concept of a select and creative collective really appeals and I feel honoured to be a part of it.

Visit Dark Horse here...

*Simply type in SECRET at the checkout to redeem the 20% discount

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Secret Arcade Needs You!

There are reportedly over 500 pre-1900 shopping arcades still in existence in Britain. Given our enthusiasm for all things arcade related, we have started a campaign to document as many of these as possible and we need you to help us! We would love to hear from you with any information you may have about historical shopping arcades in your town - and it would be great if you could email us a photo or two!

The Royal Arcade, Norwich

Our ambition is to build an archive of surviving arcades, both those that have sadly gone into decline or those that are thriving. We will have a permanent ' The Secret Arcade Needs You' link on the blog so we can upload information on an ongoing basis . All of your contributions will be credited to you and your town or if you wish you can remain a 'secret arcader', that's fine by us!

To take part simply email us with your findings, great or small to with the subject as 'The Secret Arcade Needs You!'

Disclaimer: The Secret Arcade reserves the right to discount any entries that are deemed unsuitable.

A Potted History of the Shopping Arcade

Definition: An arcade - a covered pedestrian shopping alley - provides comfortable, stylish and safe shopping away from the dirt and clatter of the street, not to mention the rain (a bit like The Secret Arcade).

Paris was the cradle of the shopping arcade (originally known as shopping palaces). Built to provide a haven for the new breed of Parisian fashionistas - away from the narrow streets without pavements and crowded with horse-traffic, amongst other things we wont mention.

Galeries de Bois, Paris

Starting with the Galeries de Bois in the 1780s, arcades gradually spread across Paris, with a burst of building in the 1820s. The arcades of this decade mainly have pitched glass roofs. The Galerie d'Orleans, which replaced the Galeries de Bois in 1828-30, was the first to be covered by the glass tunnel vault which subsequently dominated arcade design.

Galerie d'Orleans, Paris 1828

Arcades suited the British climate. London has two fine early arcades. The Royal Opera Arcade was built by Nash and Repton in 1816-28. The elegant design with a dome over each bay was the inspiration for several others. But it was soon outshone by the outstandingly successful Burlington Arcade built in 1818-19 to the design of Samuel Ware.

Burlington Arcade, London

The Victorian imagination ran riot with the possibilities of wrought and cast iron: the County and Cross Arcades in Leeds are among the most flamboyant and Cardiff has no less than five arcades from this period.

County and Cross Arcades, Leeds

To take part simply email us with your findings, great or small to office@thesecretarcade.comwith the subject as 'The Secret Arcade Needs You!'

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Shopkeeper of the Week - The Littlecote Soap Co.

The founder and creator of The Littlecote Soap Co. Elaine Stavart, gained initial inspiration for her business from a market in France where there was 'one stall with handmade soaps beautifully laid out like a pastel rainbow'.

Since that holiday Elaine has created a small empire of beautifully packaged natural handmade soaps, bath products, skin-care and toiletries all made with natural ingredients from her workshop and farm in the Buckinghamshire countryside.

Using both contemporary and traditional methods all the products are made in small batches in The Littlecote Soap Co's workshops to ensure the highest quality. Bath products are vegetarian-friendly, not tested on animals and are packaged with eco-friendly packaging.

Here we take a few moments out with Elaine whilst she takes a break from mixing up new ingredients and cutting soaps.

How would you describe your e-shop?

Organic handmade artisan soaps and toiletries made in the heart of England. Traditional recipes with fun and contemporary twists (like the Gin & Tonic range below).

Who/what are your biggest influences?

The hedgerows, fields and gardens of England.

Where is your favourite spring/summer place to visit for inspiration?

Open Gardens around the country in June are filled with beautifully scented flowers and provide inspiration for our natural ranges.

What is your favourite item from your current collection?

The English Bluebell Organic Soap

Do you have any new items/collections about to be launched?

The first scent in our "Fine Fragrance" range "White Spruce" with Spruce, Lime, Amber & Moss

What do you enjoy most about being one of the shops in The Secret Arcade?

Being a part of England's most unique online collection of handmade treasures.