Probably my favourite of London’s many ‘must-see’ type museums, the V&A is a place I visit when I’m having a ‘why the fuck do I live in this over-priced, over-populated, misery-inducing shit weasel of a city that I don’t even like?’ moment (and, as regular readers will know, there are many of those to be had). The knowledge that I can jump on a bus and within the hour be surrounded by some of the world’s most precious artwork, for free, is a sure-fire way of reminding me of the benefits of big city life.
As a dual art and fashion obsessive, to me, the V&A is Mecca, the Promised Land, my ‘Happy Place’ (alongside Monkey World and Liberty’s fabric remnants corner). Endless rooms filled with more treasure than is possible for the human brain to adequately process should leave a person culturally drained, and yet I always leave excited, full of ideas for things to make and do and learn more about. And that seems to be the key to running a successful museum: plenty to inspire, but not so much as to overwhelm.
And that segues nicely into what I really want to talk about:
The Gift Shop.
A thing of such brilliance, it revives even this jaded pro-shopper.
As a professional buyer (or, at least, I would be if someone were to, you know, actually employ me), I am bored and disinterested in practically every shop I go into. The recession has spawned a stale homogeneity amongst the average UK shop that is equal parts frustrating and depressing; in short, everything looks the fucking same. Do not lie to me, retail giant: I know you made millions of pounds of profit for your shareholders this year; I read Retail Weekly. You can afford to push the boat out and try something different (you can also afford to hire more staff and treat the ones you do have better, but that’s another rant, for another time). You owe it to your brand and its customers to produce items that incite intrigue, joy, lust at a time when everyone is playing it safe lest they spook the already cautious shopper. In the wise words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT!”
Or something to that effect.
Anyway, as I was saying before I distracted myself: The V&A gift shop. There are but a handful of items in there that I would not happily find house-room for. I mean, look at this:
Who wouldn’t want to eat their dinner while taking a perch on this chair (admittedly, your dinner will consist of 1 packet of Tesco Value 8p noodles, as you’ll be broke as fuck from spending £1500 on a chair, but still…)?
Or pop their little pudding in one of these pinnies?
And what sort of person wouldn’t appreciate an assortment of V&A print ceramic buttons?!
No-one worth knowing is who.
What’s more, they have recently launched their online sale. I feel an ‘it’s my money, and anyway it was half price so it doesn’t count’ moment coming along.