A walk through central London usually proffers sightings of tourists, loads of them, walking gaily along in droves attempting to take in the spectacular sights and sounds we take for granted every single day. While we jet down Oxford Street at light-speed or hare past our iconic department stores there are hordes of people who’ve come out especially to see these places and take away a few special memories.
Usually, tourists pick up a little something to remind them of the cultural experiences they enjoyed in our fair city, and usually these keepsakes are pure tat. A London bus fridge magnet, a T-shirt with London Bridge emblazoned on the front, Union Jack mugs; you get the idea. We’ve all seen our share of terrible souvenirs and generally accept how naff they are and will always be. One shop on a very famous street, however, is attempting to change this.
Nestled on the avenue that launched thousands of proud British moments is We Built This City, a store that not only celebrates London’s creativity but also offers an alternative to cringeworthy souvenirs. Carnaby Street plays host to many shops that exhibit the diversity of the UK’s flair for style, design and trend-setting and is a hit with tourists and Londoners alike for many good reasons. Here you’ll find fashion mixed with handcrafted and bespoke creations, time-honoured brands and a few eclectic goldmines, one of which is this very forward-thinking gift shop.
The term gift shop is probably somewhat of an understatement. We Built This City, founded by Alice Mayor, is on a mission to show visitors and tourists what London is really like, what we have to offer and why we’re considered to be a cultural capital. Eschewing keyrings and T-shirts in favour of handmade jewellery, art prints, embossed notepads, jazzy homewares and books on art and design, the shop is a trove of items created by designer/makers and artists who associate with London’s creative scene.
Pop in of an afternoon and you can expect to see a happy mix of people, some locals, some vacationers, browsing the playful displays, picking out gifts and giving back to the city’s creative community. We’re big fans of the entire process and delighted to see a tonne of items made by featured artists and friends of YOUNG GOLD TEETH stocking the shelves and adorning the walls. A store like this belongs in the thick of the city centre and we’re glad it’s making an impact on people who might have otherwise considered buying anything in the shape of a phone box during their stay here.
From cards and wrapping paper to accessories and printed tea towels, every item has a link to London but trust us when we say you’ll find no clichés here. Everything is cleverly curated to tell a story or give an insight into how creative our city is and continues to be year by year. We’re especially big fans of screen printed homages to the likes of British greats Bowie and Amy Winehouse, illustrated crockery by Jimbob Art and anything inspired by architecture and subcultures, like Hoxton Mini Press’ photobooks.
Look out for the bricks and pigeons hanging in the window and pay We Built This City a visit. The shop assistants know their stuff, all being creative types themselves, and even if you’re not out to make a purchase that day, a visit to simply take in the view and support homegrown talent is well worth a wander down Carnaby Street. We’re looking forward to more events, visits, collaborations and surprises from what’s essentially just become our new favourite store throughout the rest of the year. Keep up with WBTC on their colourful Instagram feed and say hello on Twitter too.
Open 10am – 7pm Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 8pm Thursday – Saturday and 12 noon – 6pm Sunday
56 Carnaby Street, London W1F 9QF
Find more here
Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth