LONDON — An unlisted phone number, inconspicuous residential location and limited hours of operation may seem like a strange way to run a retailer, but when it comes to Kinnemont, a boutique that’s open only on Saturdays, the quirkier the better.
The shop, at 26 Chilworth Street, is owned by designers Sherald Lamden and John Tsiattalou. It is on the first floor of a Victorian house in West London’s Bayswater area, where it sits amid a row of similar homes attracting little attention.
The two designers, who are not a couple, have a history of being nonconformists. Lamden designs the Seraph label, which originally started out as Ghost’s diffusion line and has been influenced by London’s Asian underground culture, among other things. Lamden was Ghost’s head designer for three years before taking Seraph out on her own.
Her friendship with Tsiattalou dates back to the Eighties when he was designing the Chatters label and she was his assistant. He sold that company in 1995 to found Double Identity, or D.I.D., a men’s wear collection with street influences. He bought the house that same year and installed the D.I.D. operation on the top floor.
In 1999, Tsiattalou approached Lamden about moving the Seraph design studio into the Kinnemont house and opening a shop in the building. The store opened the following year.
Both Tsiattalou and Lamden wholesale in Japan to earn a living, selling to stores such as the Journal Standard in Tokyo. The London shop is a place where they can experiment and have fun.
“Financially, it’s not an astounding success, but we sell steadily enough to justify being open,” said Lamden.
“We don’t intend to be intimidating or difficult to find,” added Lamden somewhat disingenuously. “The shop was set up foremost as a showroom for our designs, not really as a business.”
Even with no advertising, Kinnemont has built a following through word-of-mouth. “We have regular pilgrimages from as far as Japan,” said Lamden.
The store is definitely a destination, but on warm summer days when the door is open and the retail life within is visible to curious passersby, it gets some walk-in traffic.
The partners introduced their own friends to the business. Tsiattalou brought in Mark Eley of the London-based design duo, Eley Kishimoto, whose collection features fabrics with wallpaper prints such as lightning flashes. Lamden invited both Jessica Ogden and Katie Hillier to sell at the store.
Ogden designs simple feminine skirts and dresses, while Hillier, who designs accessories for Luella Bartley’s Luella label and collaborated on an accessories collection with London designer Markus Lupfer, provides bright plastic earrings, cuff bracelets and beaded belts.
“They all shared our socialist, utopian ideas,” said Lamden.
Lamden and Tsiattalou get help running the store from an art student who works in a gallery during the week.
According to Lamden, the name Kinnemont comes from an inscription on a ceramic tile on the wall outside the house that was put there by a group of moldmakers who specialized in decorating around the doors and windows of churches with clay. The group that lived in the house did the mold work for the churches in Maida Vale, an area of West London near Bayswater.
The 1,000-square-foot store includes a hair salon, Matthew at Kinnemont, where regulars include “successful arts and media clients.”
Ogden’s boyfriend, Steven Male, furnishes the shop with a diverse selection of pre- and post-World War II objects scoured from markets worldwide. On a recent visit, there was a 1930s hospital bed, a used stove, a dentist’s side cabinet and film studio lights. The rule of thumb at Kinnemont is that basically anything that isn’t nailed down is for sale.
“We didn’t want there to be a theme to the shop,” said Lamden, referring to the store’s shabby-chic hodgepodge effect. “It’s no Moroccan living room.”
The most interesting piece on sale is a gigantic, 1970s wooden throne — an exact replica of Elvis Presley’s jungle chair from his Graceland home.
Prices are reasonable. A T-shirt from any of the lines is $49 and dresses and suits by Ogden are around $650.
Since the store opened, shoes from Tsiattalou’s D.I.D line have been the bestsellers. They come in women’s sizes, with a hightop athletic shoe for $107 and a woven brogue for $164.
In conjunction with the Japanese design team, Graf, Mark Eley of Eley Kishimoto is planning to launch The Flash Café on the ground floor during London fashion week in September. The cafe, which will serve light food, will be covered with Eley Kishimoto’s Gold Flash wallpaper, and will be used for parties and exhibitions.
While Kinnemont is officially open only on Saturdays, the owners are not averse to accommodating special requests.
“We also get a lot of calls from visitors in the U.S. or Paris wanting to come in,” said Lamden. Usually it’s no problem, since she and Tsiattalou work above the shop. The trickiest part for would-be customers is finding the store’s phone number.