Ladles Not Labels

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By Miyoko Ohtake / Published by Dwell
Fed up with men's fashion, Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins of East London's Labour and Wait cooked up a plan to align their creative instincts and passion for practical design.

When fashion design lost its luster and took the form of fleeting, regurgitative styles and overconsumption, British menswear veterans Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins traded trends for timelessness by opening Labour and Wait. In their East London shop, the business partners offer goods for the home, kitchen, and garden, each designed to last a lifetime. "We sell everyday classics," Watkins says, "products that almost don’t look as though they’ve been designed at all but have just evolved into the most practical form they could take." Now, ten years since they sowed the first seed for their store, Wythe-Moran and Watkins have accumulated a substantial stock of wares that will never go out of fashion.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 1 of 14 - Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins filed papers to launch Labour and Wait in 2000 and were selling goods the next year. The store name is derived from a poem by Longfellow. "We liked the idea of two words; it sounds like two people’s names," Watkins says. "Plus, the shop’s about doing work and waiting for the results."

Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins filed papers to launch Labour and Wait in 2000 and were selling goods the next year. The store name is derived from a poem by Longfellow. "We liked the idea of two words; it sounds like two people’s names," Watkins says. "Plus, the shop’s about doing work and waiting for the results."

 

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 2 of 14 - The shelves of Labour and Wait are filled with finds from across Europe—–and, of course, the Internet. "We’re endlessly looking online, but we also have customers who come into the shop who make things or know someone making things we might like to sell," Wythe-Moran says. "Ideally we’d like more time to travel to find goods."

The shelves of Labour and Wait are filled with finds from across Europe—–and, of course, the Internet. "We’re endlessly looking online, but we also have customers who come into the shop who make things or know someone making things we might like to sell," Wythe-Moran says. "Ideally we’d like more time to travel to find goods."

What are your criteria for selecting an item to sell?

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 3 of 14 - Toilet Brush and Bucket "We created this combination as it was impossible to find an attractive and functional toilet set. We like the functional look of the traditional florist's Bucket and traditional wooden brush." Photo courtesy of Labour and Wait.

Toilet Brush and Bucket "We created this combination as it was impossible to find an attractive and functional toilet set. We like the functional look of the traditional florist's Bucket and traditional wooden brush." Photo courtesy of Labour and Wait.

Simon Watkins: We both have to like it; that’s number one.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 4 of 14 -

Rachel Wythe-Moran: And it has to have a function; we don’t sell anything that’s just for decoration.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 5 of 14 - Folio Bag "An archive design selected from the manufacturer's archive. We love the traditional craftsmanship, combined with a contemporary look. Very useful for carrying a laptop." Photo courtesy of Labour and Wait.

Folio Bag "An archive design selected from the manufacturer's archive. We love the traditional craftsmanship, combined with a contemporary look. Very useful for carrying a laptop." Photo courtesy of Labour and Wait.

What’s your most recent purchase?

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 6 of 14 -

RWM: A brown bread bin made especially for us by our enamel manufacturer in Austria.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 7 of 14 - Sori Yanagi Kettle "We fell in love with this kettle when visiting Japan. Designed in the 1990's, this kettle has an incredible understated elegance and a timeless look." Photo courtesy of Labour and Wait.

Sori Yanagi Kettle "We fell in love with this kettle when visiting Japan. Designed in the 1990's, this kettle has an incredible understated elegance and a timeless look." Photo courtesy of Labour and Wait.

What are you currently longing for?

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 8 of 14 -

SW: We’re always being asked for wooden ironing boards, but we just can’t find anyone who makes them for a reasonable price.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 9 of 14 -

What are your favorite items to sell?

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 10 of 14 -

SW: The aluminum dustpans. They look great, work really well, and are substantial. We had a customer buy one and then come back needing a new one, because he had had work done and the builder loved it so much he took it!

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 11 of 14 -

RWM: I spent hours trying to find a nice wooden toilet brush and a container to put it in. We finally found a set, and it sells incredibly well. Customers also used to inquire about our enamel pendant lamps so we developed them into a product.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 12 of 14 -

Has the store influenced your personal tastes?

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 13 of 14 -

SW: The store has always been within us. Lots of things we sell are things we’ve had ourselves for years but couldn’t replace and now are trying to find the people who make them.

Ladles Not Labels - Photo 14 of 14 -

Why is East London a good place for a design store?RWM: We wanted to be somewhere near a weekend market. Now, the area is becoming much more popular. There are a lot of buildings going up and the train is being extended here. In some ways we’re sad because we were off the beaten track and people had to make a journey to get here, but from a commercial angle, it’s good.Who are your neighbors?SW: The shop next door is called Mar Mar Co. and specializes in Scandinavian-inspired design. Nearby are a jewelry designer, T-shirt shop, and vintage-clothing store.What’s next for Labour and Wait?SW: Hopefully a bigger shop—–we’re bursting at the seams.RWM: And we’d still like to add a bookshop, tea shop, and haberdashery and laundry supply area.

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