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Lila's, East Dulwich

Jewellers the world over should pay homage to this beautiful, unusual store. For Lila’s is unique in both concept and design.

There is a very strict format within jewellery retailing that has been barely interrupted over the years. Jewellers, keen to keep their gold and gems under lock and key, have notoriously displayed their merchandise in secured window displays. More contemporary stores have adapted the layout to increase customer dwell time and naturally, their sales. This has given birth to a succession of stores featuring a range of freestanding and perimeter display cabinetry within highly polished and sleek environments.

Lila’s on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, on the other hand, brings the darker and lesser known side of this gleaming empire to the fore in a gem of a store. Over mining, exhaustion of natural resources, destruction of the natural habitat and exploitation of the indigenous population are all visible. This is a store with a story to tell and its sole purpose (over and above jewellery sales) is to educate its consumer.

Lilas’ owner, Catalina Rosca believes that the future of jewellery lies in recycling. She says, “The majority of the high-street jewellers are pretty vague as to the origin of their stones. So we believe that buying new jewellery puts an even greater pressure on the already turbulent mining conditions. By re-designing and re-conditioning pre-owned jewellery, Lila's is giving back to the market and at the same time, relieving some of that pressure."

Every aspect and element of the interior has been created using recycled and reclaimed materials and furniture. Just as each item of jewellery has been re-designed and re-polished, every unit of display cabinetry has been crafted and formed from old, pre-used items and materials. 1950s furniture, 1960s factory lamps, old tools, doors, metal frames and railway sleepers were reworked creating a truly inspirational environment that promotes sustainability and education.

From outside the gigantic steel girders that frame the store set it apart from its neighbours. The seamless, glass front allows you to admire the store in its entirety from the pavement, but more likely you’ll be drawn inside to view its charms and trinkets up close.

Taking centre stage is an old Romanian mining cart, that carried gold from within the Baiut Mine in Transylvania and was decommissioned when the mines were closed due to exhaustion of the metals. It is crowned with a mirror and factory lamps are hung artfully above. Behind this, two large freestanding display units have been crafted from stacked railway sleepers with bespoke glass display units in a variety of sizes on top. In the window, beneath antique hanging lamps a panning table has been cleverly constructed from railway sleepers. Next to it sits the cutting and polishing table, also crafted from railway sleepers to replicate another antique unit. On the rear wall, a jeweller’s workbench has been designed using an old door and a found metal frame. It is displayed together with angled 60s lamps and hand drawn wallpaper on the wall behind for an authentic touch. All these quirky units stand proud and are used to merchandise the jewellery.

I love stores like this, full of inspiration and innovation, stores that lead you around naturally to learn more and see more. Lila’s is an exquisite store, a work of art itself and one that has been beautifully designed and interpreted by Four-by-two.

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