A new experimental concept store, 50m, opened its doors last month in the highly-sought-after Eccleston Yards, Belgravia. Created by the respected London-based art collective Something & Son – founded by Andrew Merritt and Paul Smyth – alongside co-founder Tracey Suen, the innovative store is dedicated to supporting and showcasing emerging talented designers, offering affordable rail rental and co-working spaces inside the space.
“The fashion industry is becoming a difficult industry to survive in”, Paul Smyth explains below. “50m came to life because as artists we were fed up with the rising rents that are starving design and artistic talent of chances, and leaving great British talent behind.”
In return for an affordable monthly fee, designers will receive a dedicated 50 metres of rail space – hence the store’s name – offering young talent a place to showcase their work, alongside independent fashion, food, co-working and wellbeing brands. “The shop will also feel a bit different to visitors – you’ll see designers working, they’ll be talks, books, a bar and we’re open to the community to put on parties or events here,” Smyth adds.
With the current roster including exciting emerging names such as Daniel W. Fletcher, Ryan Lo, Danshan, Faustine Steinmetz and London College of Fashion graduates, Laundry Service and jewellery studio RÄTHEL & WOLF, 50m is looking to start a conversation; offering an alternative solution for young designers being priced out by London’s sky-high rent prices.
Holly Louise Eells: Congratulations on your new exciting store opening, 50m. How did the launch go?
Tracey Suen: Thanks! I had a really good time. It was the first time that we had all our designer members, mentors and whole team in the space. Everyone turned up including many family and friends of the members, so there was a proper sense of community throughout the whole evening.
Holly: How did the idea for the store first came about?
Paul Smyth: 50m exists to give power back to designers and makers, to gather one of the world’s greatest communities of fashion talent together in a space and to support radical and world changing design. It’s a response to the corporate direction that fashion has gone in recent years and will make it easier for young designers to get started without needing to be rich. The shop will also feel a bit different to visitors – you’ll see designers working, they’ll be talks, books, a bar and we’re open to the community to put on parties or events here.
50m really is open to everyone and we want it to be a place where London’s fashion community hangs out, supports each other and tries new and radical things. If you’ve got an idea for an event or collaboration or something we can do together – we want to hear from you.
HLE: It’s important for stores to offer exposure for young designers looking to break through.
PS: Absolutely, it’s important to use the opportunities we get to try and help others. It’s been a brilliant time for us to get to know this city’s best designers and understand what makes them tick. 50m came to life because, as artists, we were fed up with the rising rents that are starving design and artistic talent of chances. When its costs £200k to start a shop in Berwick Street only people with money get the chance to do this, it’s also our belief that communities can be a driver of social change and innovation.
HLE: Can you explain how the store concept works?
Paul: We’ve taken a clothes rail and split it up into individual lengths of space which designers can rent and join the community as a member. We are in one of London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, but we’re committed to keeping the space affordable. It’s about £10 per day to be part of the community – this gives you space on the rail, online store, mentoring and a place to work, host parties and shows.
“50m really is open to everyone and we want it to be a place where London’s fashion community hangs out, supports each other and tries new and radical things. If you’ve got an idea for an event or collaboration or something we can do together – we want to hear from you.”
HLE: You have some very talented designers on board, from Daniel W. Fletcher to rising Luke Anthony Rooney.
TS: Yes we do, and we are very proud and excited to have them as part of 50m. All the designer members at 50m have very distinct and individual styles which they are known for and we want to create a space known for this – somewhere people can go knowing that the best emerging designers can be discovered and knowing that we provide the structure and support needed to help them grow.
HLE: You mentioned 50m will also be offering an eclectic programme of workshops and talks aimed at offering advice and support to emerging designers.
TS: We are in a time in the world where there is a real sense that people want to help others. We’re working with 30 brilliant mentors who want to do exactly that. We have other designers, industry specialists, lawyers and makers who have committed to helping our members as they want to see new talent thrive. Our members do not lack creativity and ideas, but what they need is help with all the other stuff that it takes to make it. Also, members will have access to almost 30 industry and business mentors to inspire and provide them with the necessary knowledge and tools to help their business grow. Mentors include Consultant Nick Dunn, entrepreneur Alison Lowe MBE, photographer Peter Yip, PR Manager for Victoria Beckham Florence Shippey, Executive Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Jeff Skinner, and London-based pattern cutter and designer Arena Page.
HLE: Can any designer get involved in 50m or is there a selection process?
TS: We are open to all to apply and will look at every designer who gets in touch. Just drop us a message, or visit pop in to the store. It doesn’t matter if you have gone through the formal education route or not, how old you are or where you’re from, if you have created something outstanding or challenging and it fits with 50m, we want you here with us. We’re expecting there to be a lot of interest so there will be a selection process by our team to sift through all the pieces and people to pick the designers and work out what our customers will love.
HLE: How do you see 50m growing?
PS: One day we might grow to 1000m! We want to give our customers the greatest collection of design talent there is and see 50m growing not just in London but in other cities too. There is talent everywhere and we want to help emerging designers make it in a difficult industry. It’s not just about being bigger though – we hope that in time 50m will be known first off for being home to the best and most challenging fashion talent, and also for driving forward social ideas and practice.