Peek into Choosing Keeping’s stunning new store in London’s Seven Dials, beautifully curated with diaries, pens and dreamy papers and you could be forgiven for thinking that this was just a stylish stationery stockist. However, delve a little deeper, behind the exterior, and you’ll find that Choosing Keeping is an independent stationery lovers’ paradise, with true heart - and a homage to almost-forgotten trades.
Choosing Keeping opened in 2012, in its former home on Columbia Road, with the aim of bringing together charming stationery products, that were “under threat of extinction possibly because they had become under-appreciated, or thought of as old-fashioned, or too expensive in relation to cheaply made in China alternatives”, owner, Julia explains.
Identifying that national culture can be lost when items, like these, stop being produced, and that as consumers, we should do what we can to ensure that these items - and the memories they are attached to - prevent being lost, Choosing Keeping is keeping alive these old traditions.
“The green Pentel R50 which sat in the pen pot by your grandfather’s telephone, the Japanese Nori glue you used to craft in school, all of these iconic objects combined are part of our cultural memory and therefore very important,” Choosing Keeping’s owner says. “The fact that each day such companies cease to manufacture in France, Italy, Germany … is a tragedy.”
Of course, it’s not just the item itself or the history associated with it. Choosing Keeping are also concerned about the people behind the product too - with companies closing down, livelihoods being lost and the impact on the villages whose factories close. A sobering thought as many of us tick off our Christmas gift list.
Since 1st November 2018, Choosing Keeping has closed its doors for the final time at 128 Columbia Road and have begun a new chapter, at 21 Tower Street in Seven Dials. With a new location, the Choosing Keeping team took the opportunity to think about their new space, designing their own made-to-measure furniture, as well as all their gorgeous pen display pots (made by Steve Harrison). Staying loyal to their ethos of enjoying something for as long as possible, their new store includes plenty of wood, bringing warmth and softness to the aesthetics, and perfectly complimenting the sensuality of the opulent stationery on offer.
Given that Choosing Keeping’s focus is on bringing together items that could be forgotten about, the team work hard to source the best paper, art and office goods. This inspiration comes from watching films, travelling, chatting with suppliers and reading catalogues from cover to cover to find those items that should be enjoyed for many more years to come.
Needless to say, there’s not any visits to gift fairs or trade shows for the Choosing Keeping team, instead it’s all about research and connection to find those almost-forgotten gems. One business they’ve built a relationship with over the last six years is German penmaker, Kaweco, who have been manufacturing pens since 1883. Choosing Keeping now have the largest range in a bricks and mortar UK shop.
As well as carefully sourcing stationery products from across the world, the store also create their own items too, such as their four colour ballpoint pens, Italian leatherette notebooks, hardback notebooks and handmade watercolour paper, of which many are among their bestsellers.
Needless to say, Choosing Keeping is a one-of-a-kind kind of stationery store, encouraging us shoppers to give thought when buying (not only about the product itself but about the makers and the community surrounding them) and then to take care, preserve and respect whatever it is we’ve purchased. In a nutshell: choosing to keep the memories, the heritage and people in work from independents, rather than buying mass-produced items. A visit to this beautiful store definitely gives us food for thought…
Find Choosing Keeping at 21 Tower Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9NS.