Same difference

The name: Same. The place: east London, of course. The aim: to sell innovative modern design to the British public. But though you'll find big design names here, this is not just another elitist emporium. And you won't find a price tag over pounds 2,500. James Sherwood goes shopping. Photographs by Tony Buckingham

YOU MAY HAVE heard the odd rumour that East London is hip. Well, apparently, it's the cradle of cool young turks on the art and design scene. And you may also have heard that Paul Gascoigne isn't playing for England. Unless you've been in rehab for the past year, you couldn't fail to notice the explosion of galleries, edit suites, design studios and clubs in London's East End. These days, if it ain't got an E in the postcode, you bin the invitation.

At the heart of the East End, traversing Brick Lane, is the vast Trumans Brewery complex. Established in 1666, the brewery's remaining Victorian brick offices and soaring chimney are now the focal point for a sprawling village of architectural oddities. The only beer produced on the site now is from a pump in the funky Vibe Bar. Trumans Brewery is the eye of the creative storm in east London.

This part of the East End is Dazed & Confused country, with a population not unlike the cult TV show Logan's Run (where everyone over 40 is exterminated). The new establishment have made the brewery their headquarters. It's a little down-at-heel, but remember this is the grunge generation five years down the line. DJ Talvin Singh and fashion designer Tristan Webber work from studios on site. Bjork, Goldie and All Saints have performed there. Dazed & Confused, Scene and Sleaze Nation magazines have all partied there. But that's all in-crowd. Now the Trumans Brewery is ready to open one of its first commercial spaces.

Same is a new designer furniture and lighting shop in the brewery complex. It is the size of an aircraft hangar with an exhibition space bigger than all the West End interiors shops put together. Design duo Piers Roberts and Rory Dodd (both 34) are the names behind it. Roberts is like an eccentric evangelist for contemporary design, bursting at the seams with enthusiasm for young talent, accessible design and the glories of east London. Dodd, with signature Joe 90 frames, looks not unlike one of his swift cartoon- sketches.

"The inspiration for opening Same came from the young designers," says Roberts. "We recognised young people with talent and good ideas who had absolutely no support. They leave college and have to do their own PR, marketing, book-keeping, distribution and do a bit of design on the side. The emphasis of Same is overcoming these barriers. We approach retail like a designer approaches a design problem." If Roberts is the philosopher, then Dodd is the one who clearly revels in the quirks and surprises of contemporary design. "Look, it's a balloon," he says of a "vase" made from a sucker, a piece of wire and a balloon filled with water. "See, it's a real tea strainer," Dodd points to Ingo Maurer's Mozzkito light with a halogen bulb trapped inside a steel antenna.

Same's mission is to educate a new generation about design. We're not talking about recognising a Charles Eames chair and sagely nodding at a pounds 5,000 price-tag. "The market has shifted considerably," says Roberts. "I think design has always been perceived as elite; for a narrow and rich margin of society. But even named designers like Tom Dixon are consciously working in more accessible materials, which makes the prices more egalitarian. The designers want to see design much more widely accepted and they know that won't happen if they price themselves beyond a real person's budget."

A brief look at pieces scarcely out of their packing cases (Same doesn't officially open until 2 July) demonstrates how astutely Roberts and Dodd have chosen the stable of launch designers. Yes, there will be show pieces but Roberts says firmly, "The most expensive piece we have is pounds 2500." So name designers like Ingo Maurer are at Same, but at pounds 345 for his Lucellino winged light bulb. Ingenious is the word for the fantastic Finnish design house Snowcrash. The Glowblow standing light (pounds 300) is a nylon balloon which inflates and hovers around a bulb when the light is switched on. The silver Chip Chair (pounds 330) is a plastic form that shapes to the body and moves when you do - not necessarily in the same direction.

It is the humour that will undoubtedly contribute to Same's success. But it is not a throw-away humour. For example, Babylon Design's Wobble Glass (pounds 8) is shaped like a Weeble (the kid's toy that wobbles but won't fall down) and rocks without spilling. Fruit on Wheels (pounds 62) by Designum is an aerodynamic glass fruit bowl on castors. Even the ubiquitous Philippe Starck Dr No chair looks witty when chosen in hot orange. There are 30 international designers represented at Same. British favourites like Michael Sodeau, Babylon Design and Michael Young are there and some, like Dutch designers GoodsGoods and Droog are exclusive to Same.

Robert insists that, "We came from nowhere. Two years ago, Rory was leaving college and I was closing a workshop in Thame. We really were improvising. We didn't know whether Same would work. If it wasn't for the designers and agents who had faith in us, then there wouldn't be a Same."

John Roake, whose agency Catalytico represents Ingo Maurer in the UK, says, "In the Eighties boom people spent money but they had no idea what they were buying. They bought a Knoll sofa the way they'd buy a BMW - because everyone had one. Also, the designer pieces were over-priced. There was no relationship between the object and its worth as long as there was a name attached. That has changed. We are still indifferent as a nation to good design. Same will contribute to the shift away from indifference and it's significant that this is happening in the East End of London."

There's been a shift in culture in East London, an inevitable smartening up that saddens some. It's not so much about boho artists and students now. But there is also a new level of professionalism. Ivan Tennant, owner of Spitalfields gallery E1, says. "You have to understand that the East End is where the City and the artists meet. The people who can afford contemporary art and design aren't living in Chelsea anymore. They are moving into the East End lofts. That means the artists who have studios there are practically next door. It also means they have the wall space for vast pieces of art." This phenomenon will inevitably help Same. A loft demands contemporary furniture and there's a lorra lorra lofts in the East End.

Same, The Bridge, 146 Brick Lane, London E1. Tel: 0171 247 9992

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are