Even in London, it’s not often that you find a silk handkerchief from one of France’s most exclusive tailors selling next to a creepy-looking stuffed bear embroidered by a group of African storytellers. But nothing about CoutureLab is predictable. Having started life as a website set up by one of the founders and the majority shareholder of Net-A-Porter, Carmen Busquets, this hip Mayfair boutique was run on an ‘appointment only’ basis until it opened its doors to the public a few weeks ago.
In the window fertility figures poke out from expensive-looking bowls and Anish Kapoor jewellery; this is not your bog standard fashion-meets-lifestyle store. The owners describe it as a ‘curiosity shop’, and when you look closely at the objects scattered around inside – from a beautifully inscribed vase to an Indian cashmere scarf that took eight months to make – the level of artistry is eye-popping. Not just ‘high end’, it’s a collection of rare craftsmanship that requires support today if it isn’t to die out tomorrow.
Okay, some prices are painfully high (said Indian scarves start at £2,000). But just when you think it’s all unaffordable, up crop stunning gifts like individually made coconut-shell picture frames, or those bears which are priced at £50. Not since the days when you could pop into Harrods and pick up a live lion cub and and a wheel of cheese has there been so much unusual fodder under one roof.