Idea has been the World’s Coolest Bookshop Since 2011: You Can Now Go There

3 min read

If it’s true as widely believed that algorithms now run the world, then no one bothered to tell David Owen and Angela Hill.

The couple established their own publishing company (think Gavin Bond’s Being There and Harley Weir’s Beauty Papers) and started collecting rare vintage books and magazines in the 1990s. Since then, they have solidified their reputation as “the coolest publisher in the world,” as Vogue’s Mark Holgate described them in 2015. They have also accumulated a 500,000-strong following of rapacious fashion nerds on Instagram, despite defying the social media giant’s nipple-averse policies.

Idea has been the World's Coolest Bookshop

Though Idea  current Instagram account served as the foundation for Owen and Hill’s business strategy for almost ten years, the platform has moved away from presenting a chronological feed of still images since 2016. As a result, Idea followers are now more likely to see a Reel of an anthropomorphic alpaca than one of the duo’s posts about an incredibly rare ’70s copy of Handmade Houses: A Guide To The Woodbutcher’s Art, which is what propelled them onto BOF’s “500 People Shaping Fashion” list, not to mention the moodboards of designers like Kim Jones and Nicolas Ghesquière.

Idea book shop soho

Additionally, David notes that Instagram is becoming less and less tolerant of photographs from “pretty much every book [Idea stocks] these days” or anything that even remotely resembles indecent exposure. Photographs from Idea  back issues of Wet: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, which were published between 1976 and 1981 and were characterized by the New York Times as promoting “a post-hippie philosophy of pleasure, sensuality, and play,” are difficult to conceive Zuckerberg and company would think of.

As a result, Owen and Hill have been embracing the glaringly outdated aspects of their company plan, inviting a growing number of guests into their W1 offices—which are conveniently located next to their family home—in their tungsten-lit, appointment-only “Secret Book Room.” The space has drawn a lot of blue-tick-blessed people over the years, in addition to creative directors and CSM students eager to peruse everything from Tina Barney’s Theater of Manners to Japanese monographs from the 1990s on Leonardo DiCaprio for idea.

Idea book shop soho

Even for visitors who arrive with trailing security details, it’s not always simple to find; several years ago, David, laughing acerbic, inadvertently entered its address on Google Maps, mistakenly placing it roughly 100 yards away, “between a bagel shop and Ann Summers.” “I used to see people standing in the middle of the road, staring down at their iPhones and then back up at where we were supposed to be. As taxis and Boris bikes sped by, I would shout frantically through the window at them to get out of the way.”

Idea book shop

Though, in principle, anybody may now ring the bell at 101 Wardour Street by the subtly placed Idea label and stroll upstairs to peruse items like Harmony Korine’s The Bad Son or past editions of Butt magazine—though appointments are still “advised” before visiting. And for those devoted followers worried that Idea would lose part of its charm if its riches become more accessible? To be honest, I wouldn’t stress too much. David informs me with joy, “We received a notification from Google two hours after I posted our opening times, stating we had received our first customer review: one star out of five.” “Good luck locating that spot, someone had written. I simply replied with a happy expression.

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