What?: Last month we voyaged to deepest, darkest Stoke Newington in search of Olive Loves Alfie, a kids’ concept store and N16 institution that’s been keeping the young of North East London in organic cotton rompers and extortionate Danish bedroom furniture for over a decade. We could have bought up the entire shop, but felt the dark, cupboardy space was a bit of a sad backdrop for such beautiful products.
I then discovered via the website that O♡A also has a larger store in Stratford’s East Village boasting a small selection of goods for men, women and the home, in addition to its kids’ offer, as well as running a programme of parental workshops on subjects as diverse as photography, solids, and career versus motherhood.
Feeling optimistic, we vowed to drop by the next time we were in the neighbourhood. While obviously the majority of what’s on sale mirrors that of its big-sister store, the bright and airy East Village space feels a much better fit for this modern brand, with goods displayed in adorable house-shaped wooden cabinets, and miniature tables and chairs dotted around for tinies to sit at and create while the adults browse the chic grown-up edit of leather bags, candles, skincare and Salt-Water Sandals – which can also be purchased in children’s sizes on the other side of the store, because twinning is winning.
Where?: The East Village is a weird no-man’s-land a 15-minute walk from both Hackney Wick (Ginger) and Stratford (Central, Jubilee, Overground, DLR) stations. A former contaminated waste land, it was redeveloped into the 2012 Olympic Village and is now a surreal but strangely pleasant network of converted apartment blocks and empty streets with names like Celebration Avenue and Cheering Lane; ironic, given their eery silence, which makes you feel more like you’re exploring a Hollywood film set than a residential Hackney suburb. In fact this particular Tuesday afternoon was so quiet the shopkeeper had locked the door, presumably for fear of being robbed at gunpoint and no one giving a shit.*
Best Bits: Shops this lovely are few and far between. Expect shelf upon shelf of beautifully designed, beautifully made and generally just beautiful stuff for kids.
Worst Bits: There are no bad bits but I do wonder how much business a shop like this gets in such a comatose location. The first time we visited the East Village was on a Saturday and while it was slightly more bustling than on a weekday, I do remember commenting on how much I felt like I was trapped inside Grand Theft Auto. I actually love how quiet it is because I hate people, but it does make you question the longevity of the business – not that I claim to know the first thing about running a business. They might be doing a roaring trade for all I know, and I genuinely hope they are.
Price Range: Pocket money toys start at a few quid; clothing is expensive but unique and beautiful; furniture costs top dollar but is totally dreamy.
Did We Buy?: We bought Bab one of Lili Moko’s brilliant Super Moko superhero cat toys, because all cats are superheroes.
Would We Come Back?: Hell to the yes. This shop is brilliant and I’d love to try out one of the workshops should something relevant pop up.
*UPDATE: This branch is now only open Thursday-Sunday, so don’t go there unless it’s then.
Bab is incensed that she can’t have everything at Olive Loves Alfie East