Hipshops Interview: Lizzie Evans of Smug

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SMUG is the brainchild of Lizzie Evans, an interior architect and design aficionado. Besides sourcing for the store, dressing it and running the business she’s still working as a graphic and interior designer. Her latest in-store print exhibition has opened last Saturday and will be available for visits until January 2013 and we think it’s a must see for those of you in London. We were very curious about this affair so we asked her a few questions. Answers below accompanied by pictures from the Old School Print Exhibition.

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HS: Your store is located in Islington, a well known district for the antique shops. How did you choose this particular area for your shop?
LE: I’m an Islington girl born and bred so went to school around the corner and often spent my pocket money in Camden Passage and the surrounding streets. Fast forward to 5 years ago and it seemed the perfect street to house SMUG. I loved and still love the antiques market and the mixture of young and old people who frequent the passage. These days it’s great for design shops like SMUG and good food as well as the antiques and eccentrics who have been here forever and make it what it is.

HS: Can you explain a bit the intriguing choice of your shop name?
LE: The old English definition of the word SMUG is to ‘Smarten oneself up’ or ‘to smarten up a room’. So it originally meant to take pride in your appearance and your home – essentially styling and interior design!

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HS: You were trained as an interior architect, how did you make the move towards the retail business?
LE: I actually was the interior architect on the building project at 13 Camden Passage (now the home of SMUG) and decided to rent 3 floors of the space myself. It’s lovely working within my own interior styling. You would normally design the changes to a building, manage the project and then move on to the next job – but I’m still here, working in and using the space every day.

HS: Your selection of merchandise ranges from small home accessories, toys and stationery to furniture and young emerging designers. How do you put together this heterogenous choice of objects? 
LE: I really enjoy sourcing our SMUG products and curating them within the space. It’s my real love. It’s got to the stage now that SMUG is so ‘me’ that it’s very easy to make choices as to what fits and what doesn’t. I’m interested in colour very much and the tones and patterns in products, in my opinion, are key as to whether or not they work aesthetically. My starting point though is whether they work or not practically.

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HS: You’ve designed the store interior and SMUG’s graphic identity. You’re sourcing for the store and help with the accounts as well. You’re inextricably linked to the store. Did you ever think of expanding, opening another store?
LE: I think my next project might well be another store but it wouldn’t be another SMUG. Maybe a sister clothing store with the same themes and ethos as SMUG or maybe a members only bar. My real dream is to style and establish a boutique hotel in Islington but that’s a few years down the line I think. In terms of what’s next for SMUG, I’d love to expand into the yard in the back. It’s a pretty small space but a pop up cafe next summer is on the cards I think. I’m also about to launch my own blog which will be a great tool to pull all of these things together.

HS: What are your favourite places in London? How do you choose to spend your time when not at the store?
LE: I really enjoy good food so on the rare days I have off with my partner Danny we’ll go out for brunch maybe at NOPI Otto Lenghi’s Soho restaurant and probably go to a gallery or museum or pop in to YMC or Liberty. Friday lunch time is sometimes spent at Borough Market (are you seeing the food theme?). I’m a member and big fan of the Design Museum so we often walk along the river and pop in after our sausage rolls, chocolate brownies and whatever else has taken our fancy. We might stay north though and pop to the Barbican or Bricklane/Spitalfields for some vintage/bric-a-brac shopping and market stall food. The key elements are food, shopping and walking. I like parks too. We’re getting married and moving next May to an Art Deco flat overlooking Clissold Park so I can see us loving the food, shopping and park there too.

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You can check all SMUG prints by clicking here.

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