The Village Bicycle – y’know, that chic little lifestyle boutique just off Portobello’s cut and thrust – launched its digital arm last week. Wonderland spoke to Willa Keswick, the store’s owner.
How and when did you come up with the idea for The Village Bicycle?
The name came about when I was 14, it was a joke that me and my best friend thought would be a perfect name for a clothing label or something along those lines so my dad registered the company for me for Christmas. I had always wanted to own my own boutique from an early age. There used to be this shop around the corner from my house called “Frog Hollow” that my friends and I would spend hours in! It sold furry stickers, dressing up clothes and penny sweets so I think that’s where I really fell in love with the idea of having my own store.
When did the store open? What were you doing before and how did you get the project started?
The doors to The Village Bicycle first opened 15 months ago but it took around a year to get it up and running. I had worked in retail, PR and buying for around 5 years, but I never had the business skills so I decided to do a six month course at Portobello Business Centre, which taught you everything by the book and offered you one on one tuition should you need it. They were so helpful and resourceful.
What does the site offer? What’s unique about it, if anything?
I’ve actually learnt so much from this site, about the psychology of people and their shopping habits! Our original plans were to have just product images, but I’ve actually learned that people prefer to see the clothes on people before they buy it. We studied our shop clientele and dressed and styled our models to a particular look. Our customers don’t take “fashion” too seriously, so we have made sure we show that. We’ve got so many other things going on with the site as well; it’s not your typical online retailer. We have a section called “VB World” that features exclusive interviews with celebrities, new talent and downloadable DJ and model curated playlists as well as VIP gigs and festival tickets. Village Bicycle is urban, youthful and sexy, so we really wanted the website to reflect that.
How are you looking to expand the brand further?
Our brand isn’t all about clothes, it’s about music and the culture around us, too. We have just launched a project called “Off Roader” where we take up and coming bands to different hotspots around London. The tickets are sold through NME and the money goes towards a charity called “Strummerville” which helps young, unsigned bands buy instruments, get to gigs and get noticed. I believe that music has a massive impact on fashion, for me the two go hand in hand.
What do you love most about working in fashion? The worst?
I love meeting creative people- and I don’t necessarily just mean the designers. The window dressers have incredible imaginations, there are so many creative aspects of the industry. I love brainstorming round a table- that’s got to be one of the best aspects!
Words: Jack Mills