From Nanotechnology to Spitalfields Fashion

foxbatToday’s Times has four writers explaining their ‘Eureka Moments’ with science, and proving that a lifetime in the arts is no barrier to getting to grips with science.

I’ve spent the past couple of months going the other way, and getting involved in fashion! I’ve long been fascinated by the creative arts, but my enthusiasm has been unmatched by my skill with a paintbrush or even a soldering iron, both of which have in the past raised gasps of astonishment. However, I recently found a way to reconcile nanotechnology with fashion by opening a boutique, Foxbat, in one of London’s hippest districts, Spitalfields.

The idea came about last year when the Victoria and Albert Museum organised an exhibition called ‘China Design Now‘ which illustrated how art, design and fashion was undergoing a renaissance in China.

China is huge. China is becoming topical. Yet China remains mystery to most people in the West. ‘Made in China’ has become a familiar tag, but the spectacular creative energy in modern China is barely known. During the last twenty years, the Chinese have rediscovered their pre-socialist past and begun to combine their own traditions with global influences to produce a cultural rebirth. At the heart of this lies a new culture of design.

Spending time in China last year I was struck by the new home grown brands of fashion & jewellery that were emerging to stand alongside the more well known European brands and the ubiquitous (in Asia) Burberry, and the idea was born to import the best of Chinese and Korean design to Europe. The quality is outstanding, and given the disparity between consumer buying power in London and Shanghai, some thing that would cost the equivalent of a thousand pounds in China can be retailed in London for two hundred! So it’s high fashion at high street prices, a credit crunch business model that appealed to me.

We finally opened Foxbat last week, on Brushfield St in Old Spitalfields Market after six months of negotiating leases, dealing with builders, plumbers, electricians, window cleaners. A week before we were due to open our interior designers flounced out in a huff after we criticised their tiny fitting room mirrors, leaving us to source everything ourselves at short notice.

So what about the nanotechnology? We have one of the largest collections of NeoGlory crystal jewellery outside China. NeoGlory also make all the crystals for a well known Austrian brand, but have now moved into producing their own designs, which are equally stunning but at a fraction of the usual prices. As some people may know, the days of mining crystal from the Austrian Alps ended a long time ago, and most crystal used in jewellery is lead crystal, often coated with a few nanometers of metal film to add colour and enhance sparkle.

So moving from nanotechnology to a boutique full of shiny sparkly girly stuff isn’t such a great leap after all!

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