The decor at London’s new House of Voltaire pop-up shop, sponsored by the nonprofit Studio Voltaire gallery and nestled above footwear designer Rupert Sanderson’s Mayfair flagship, is traditional. The merchandise you’ll find there? Not so much.
Designed by the young U.K.-based architecture firm 6a, the shop is meant to evoke a Victorian Bond Street boutique, with rich hunter green walls and classic white-paned windows. But its stock, curated by Studio Voltaire’s artistic director, Joe Scotland, would raise Victorian eyebrows. Take Richard Nicoll’s tees and scarves, created in collaboration with the feminist artist Linder Sterling. A new spin on the graphic-printed dresses the duo turned out a few seasons back, the limited-edition items have a collage of shots from vintage porn, modestly covered up by blossoming flowers. “Porn in the seventies and early eighties was a lot more romantic than it is now,” Nicoll offered about his risqué inspiration. “Linder and I both wanted to support the charity, but on a selfish note, this was an opportunity to have a bit of fun and create something that my friends and I might want to wear. And it’s completely different from your average day designing womenswear.” (Are erotically themed shirts enjoying a moment right now? The Nicoll/Sterling tees call to mind the sexy Robert Mapplethorpe-screened ones Chloë Sevigny included in her Resort ’11 collection for Opening Ceremony.)
Reserved shoppers shouldn’t fear, though. The Studio Voltaire shop has plenty of more subdued items, too, from a brick-printed jacquard suit by the installation artist Anthea Hamilton to a teapot by YBA star Tracey Emin. Her most famous piece may have been a tent embroidered with the names of her lovers, but schoolmarms can rest easy. Sometimes a teapot is just a teapot.
House of Voltaire is open through December 4 at 19 Burton Place, London.