Ann Shore : Creative Trendsetter

Ann Shore resizedCourtesy of Cat Garcia in Our Time

Sitting down in front of a freshly made cafe latte in light and airy Story Deli, listening to Ann Shore unravelling the thread of her life, I cannot help think that this woman has been ahead of the curve more than once.

Ann Shore and her partner in life and in business, Lee Hollingworth, have surrounded themselves with flowers and greenery long before wall gardens or so called vertical gardens were in fashion. The market-style emporium where you can find natural linens or equally a vintage bench or one-off piece is how Ann envisioned her first boutique at a time when such concept was nonexistent. Finally, the idea that your home can be the centre of a fashion happening, a business concept that rapidly gained ground in the early 2000s, is how Story by Appointment really started.

distressed mirrorFresh out of the Royal College of Art, Ann Shore worked for a time for Nicole Farhi on the French Connection label. Then, she freelanced for a few years. Bursting with ideas and creativity, she decided to launch her own collection. When the fashion house backing her literally stole all her ideas, she felt disillusioned. Disenchanted with the fashion world and the way it mercilessly exploits your talent without rewarding you, she packed her bags and travelled the world. From Africa to India, she garnered smells, colours and impressions that, unbeknown to her, would feed her imagination for years to come. She also forged, in the process, relationships with artisans and creative people around the world that turned out to be very useful when she decided to set up her own business.

salvaged cardboardIn 1999, she decided to open her house to all comers but by appointment only. Hence, the name Story by Appointment. The idea was simple really though the concept was unheard of at the time. From the linen napkins from Concorde flights to cardboard boxes made from sustained forestry, a signature of Story Deli up to this day, everything on display was on sale.

Since Ann and Lee are very much concerned with the environment, everything in their shop had to be green, recycled or organic and vintage.  Ann Shore’s own line of beauty products sat alongside olive oil from Sardinia and bowls from fair-trade associations in Africa. It was brilliant. By letting people into her house, she was sharing part of her imaginary world. Ann Shore has very definite taste in fashion and in life yet a very eclectic and undefinable style. So people were always eager to discover what was on her mind, what new finds or original items she had discovered and associated in her own particular way. Soon enough, people from all parts of the fashion industry and artists from all over came demanding to visit her place. Jostling one another in front of her house to get inspired, they snapped pictures and walked away sated with new visuals and bountiful ideas. It was all too much disruption. Together with Lee, they decided that the concept should be exported outside their house. That is when they moved Story by Appointment, Story Deli by then, first to Wilkes Street then to Dray Walk where The Old Truman Brewery stands.

Lee, an architect by trade, concerned with the environment, had heard that the Environmental Trust had flower beds in the Old Truman Brewery and that next to them there were two wooden sheds with a concrete slab floor and no water. Ann and Lee couldn’t resist the prospect of fixing up a disused industrial space in the middle of the city and turning it into their new home. In 3 months, water was put in, the walls were glazed and it was perfectly liveable. They knew it would be short lived though and that one day, the Environmental Trust would walk out on the premisses and everything would be up for renovation. But while it lasted, they grew wisterias, scented roses, jasmine, clematis on the walls and agapantha on the floor in and out of the house.

Meanwhile, at Story Deli in 2004, they started experimenting with food. Having sourced locally their vegetables (a “Slow Food” concept without all the fuss associated with it), they came up with a menu that was scrumptious yet simple. Rapidly, though, it became obvious that their best seller was their pizza. Lee Hollingworth perfected the recipe down to a crisp yet mellow dough that has since won rave reviews.

from insideStory Deli moved to its current premises at 123 Bethnal Green Road about a year ago. All the while, Ann Shore kept working on the side as a freelance stylist for various photoshoots, sometimes choosing the jewels, sometimes creating the clothes, or imagining the whole story line. As Franca Sozzani, editor in chief from Vogue Italia would agree, Ann Shore cannot be pigeonholed. So, although, she keeps a low profile, people in the fashion industry know where to find her when they need an original and fresh new look for a fashion campaign. That is how over the course of the years, she has collaborated with Vogue Italia, British VogueL’Uomo, Casa Magazine, Vanity FairExit, 125 and other prestigious publications. She even, at one point, edited and coproduced with make-up artist Attracta Courtney her own magazine called 8A. 8A was a limited edition of 500 copies that she sold to none other than Paul Smith who displayed them in his boutiques. Subsequent issues were sold to Liberty and various independent and carefully selected bookstores. A slick and intriguing publication about fashion and art with no advertisements whatsoever.

Story DeliThese days, she exhibits some of her finds, collectibles or creations at the front of the boutique adjacent to Story Deli. The “showroom” sits at a crossing between Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane. Natural light floods in from all corners. As you come in, the first impression is that of a joyful bazaar soon to be dissipated as you realise that every object has carefully been positioned and is presented in its best light. Placuna shells collected from the Indian Ocean are threaded on a string, handmade jewellery is delicately put in a bowl, distressed mirrors sit alongside pieces of driftwood and vintage dresses hang from stacks of boxes. The space has been used to launch “X – The Best Of 125” book celebrating 125 magazine’s 10 year anniversary. It will also host an exhibition of WKLyhne ‘s work in May. But there was nothing planned about all these events. It all happened organically just like with every other idea and creation that Ann has come up with over the years.

Once your curiosity will have been aroused by all these little finds, you can sate your appetite by eating one of their delicious pizzas. They are open every day from 11:45 am to 10:30 pm. Hurry though, for all you know, Story Deli might move again outside London, to Cornwall or perhaps even to the West Coast of America.

Story Deli snap shot

One thought on “Ann Shore : Creative Trendsetter

  1. Hello, i am discovering Ann Shore world, and it is wonderful, ideas, work, the green side of it etc…
    Makes me feel happy to know “she” exists !!!, thaznk you,
    Florence, Flo de Paris, 8 rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006 Paris

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