Not so long ago, the only things to buy in Clapton were Turkish foodstuffs, a Yankee on the horses and, strangely, Super 8 film from Aydin’s cinema suppliers. What a difference a decade makes. Now Chatsworth Road has a Sunday street market, vintage clothes shops, a fancy hairdresser and the world’s swishest-looking Spar. Lower Clapton Road has a crafty knitting shop, a smart bookshop, a craft-beer supplier and, as of summer 2014, Bad Denim – a premium denim store just a few doors up from Hayden Wylds, the café-cum-record shop favoured by Courtney Love. Many will, understandably, be spitting about it, while also assuming there couldn’t possibly be the demographic to sustain a shop where jeans cost three figures. Yet when we visited mid-week, our shoot was frequently interrupted by passers-by who popped in to wriggle into a pair of £160 jeans, and walk out in them without blinking.
The shop is a labour of love for Detroit native Erin McQuinn, who has earned her stripes doing jeans for Victoria Beckham and Made in Heaven and seriously knows her stuff. The premise of the store is all killer, no filler, with a tight edit of the brands she is most impressed by. And nowt else. ‘My friends think I’m crazy, that I should be selling tops and accessories. But I just want to sell beautiful jeans.’ She’s selected labels from LA (Frame), London (Made in Heaven), Sweden (Neuw) and she was also the first stockist of Bethnals, the hotly-anticipated brand started by ex-Topshop designer Melissa Clement. Meaning this small shop in Clapton has the best denim for miles around. But not the cheapest – jeans start at £130 and reach £400. ‘Skinny jeans don’t sell’, McQuinn says. ‘People want the anti-fit jeans, the ones that are higher waisted.’ Perhaps because there isn’t a shop on the high street where you can’t find skinny jeans, so it’s pointless blowing cash on them.
But if you seek a new perfect fit, you couldn’t ask for someone more qualified than McQuinn to find it for you. She doesn’t believe particular body types should be prescribed certain shapes (‘bootcuts for apples etc’). She’ll find a style for every shape, which you can try on in a changing room in the shape of a vagina. Erm, why? ‘I said to my boyfriend one day that I wanted a vagina changing room. So that’s what we did. He actually proposed in there.’ Ah, l’amour.
As featured in the 100 best shops in London