How a new concept shop brings together artists and brands on east London’s most sought after street
East London isn’t short of independent boutiques; stores selling Scandinavian design, the London outposts of Parisian labels and bookshops that double up as café-workspaces all congregate around its epicentre: Redchurch Street. For Nazifa Movsoumova, the young founder of Modern Society, it’s her favourite street for just that reason.
Nazifa was working in finance before she threw it all in. She packed a bag and went travelling around the world where she met artists, photographers, and designers on the way. Chance meetings and new friendships lead to a series of international pop-ups at Villa Lena in Tuscany and at Experimental Beach Club in Ibiza. Her (permanent) concept shop and café is the latest addition to east London’s most coveted street.
“I’m really thankful for my previous career in finance, because the knowledge I acquired has been a massive help in running my business,” she tells Amuse. “East London brings together local and international businesses. It’s a hub for inspirational creatives and it embodies the concept of Modern Society perfectly.”
Modern Society has a mixture of brands and artists on sale. Tell me a bit about the range you have in the store.
We have curated an eclectic mix of lifestyle products, seeking out independent brands from both local and international locations. These include the likes of London front runners Isa Arfen and Être Cécile, to New York designer Sandy Liang, whose pastel-hued outerwear have become a cult favourite stateside. Homeware selections include innovative Japanese earthenware company, Hasami, alongside witty Manhattan stationers Terrapin. Whether you’re into interior design, photography, fashion or just after a good cup of coffee, there is something for everybody. Two things remain constant – high quality craftsmanship and timeless style.
How much of what people can find in Modern Society would they find in your own home?
Modern Society mirrors my personal aesthetic; creating a tailored experience that reflects both my design discoveries and the local surroundings. In store, 40 percent of our furniture is vintage, while everything else is custom made specifically to accommodate the space. From Skultuna’s Scandinavian simplicity to antique finds, the store and my home emulate daily inspirations.
What were you doing before you set up Modern Society?
My roots are in finance, and I spent some time learning about art curation from within the industry. But I’ve always had an eye for timeless design and emerging trends. This culminated in a series of international pop-up stores with a goal to change people’s perspective of contemporary retail.
You’ve built a café at the front of Modern Society – how did you hope or want this to transform the store from being ‘just a store’?
The café and retail space can exist as two separate entities, but the beauty of housing them under one roof is that it can makes a more diverse experience. The café isn’t just an addition to the shop. Showcasing the only full set Modbar in London, Modern Society provides its regulars and locals with a novel and interactive coffee experience.
Do you exhibit artists’ work or is it more like object-based art on sale?
Modern Society definitely exhibits artists’ works. This year we will start doing window installations and curated exhibitions in the store. There are lots of exciting projects in the pipeline for the year ahead, so watch this space.
What makes Modern Society different from other London lifestyle stores?
I think each shop echoes its founder’s vision, so every lifestyle store is different. Modern Society represents my taste, but as I evolve and grow, so will the collections we house. Besides that, our edit is very different to most of the other London stores. We are the sole ones to house Sandy Liang, photographer George Byrne, LA fashionista Anine Bing to name a few.
Where do you source things for Modern Society?
Everywhere – travels, recommendations, Instagram. Whatever looks and feels right, really. It’s vital that the brands we represent compliment the space and vice versa.
Is provenance something that’s important to you?
Yes, absolutely but not solely. The stories behind the brands we stock play an important role in our selection process, bringing an innovative and informative dimension for each customer.
What made you want to start your own store?
I’m a big believer in taking a moment to enjoy life. As our lives become more technology-fuelled and frenetic, people want to slow down or even take a pause – our primitive human needs kick in. At Modern Society, we want people to engage, connect and create good memories. Going back to the tradition, customers can regain the pleasure that used to be retail therapy. They can break the rules and open their eyes to new discoveries.
Do you have any stories from your travels before you set up the store?
I came across Australian photographer George Byrne two years ago and totally fell in love with his work, following everything he did with total admiration. Last July I was in Paris with the co-founder of Zanzan sunglasses, a brand we also house. I found out she and George were really good friends, so she put us in touch the next day and we’re now exhibiting three beautiful photographic works of his in store. I love it when life gives you unexpected presents like that.
What’s the most unusual object or piece you’ve had in the store?
The Antique Dutch printing table on the ground floor – it really ties the room together and at the same time serves as the perfect display piece.