Christmas Shopping Sorted at The Oxo Tower

views from the viewing platform of the Oxo Tower

2016-02-16-views-of-otw-oliver-rudkin-1

I have to admit, the thought of Christmas Shopping feels me with dread. All of those crowded high streets and department stores. Heavy bags. Sore feet. It’s enough to make you do it all online. Which I have been doing for the past few years I have to say, but you miss out on that festive feeling you get when you’re in the midst of the twinkling lights and the sound of Wham and Last Christmas on repeat.

But last weekend I was introduced to an alternative idea for the big Christmas shop.

I’m talking about The Oxo Tower. That iconic building on the banks of the Thames that many of us pass without a second glance. Well, maybe we whizz up to the restaurant on the top floor, occasionally. But other than that, we know there are shops there, but we maybe haven’t stopped to take a look for a while.

view inside the oxo tower

In case you didn’t know, The Oxo Tower has been a Thames-side landmark since the 1930s, and at one time was London’s second highest commercial building. The London County Council at the time did not look favourably on illuminated advertisements and ‘skysigns’, especially so high and on the riverside, and the first proposal to spell out the Oxo company name in electric lights was refused. But the architect came back with OXO incorporated, as he claimed, as “an elemental geometric form” on all four sides of the building, and the Oxo “sign” could no longer be classified as an advert. The magenta light shining through the windows illuminated the letters and the message could be seen right across London from the houses at Hampstead.

It was a real privilege to be given the chance to go up into the tower and look down on London from a new perspective.

By the late 1970s the building had become disused and derelict but (and I’m cutting a long story short here) it was eventually saved, and since its opening to the public in September 1996, Oxo Tower Wharf, with its mix of cafés and restaurants, retail design studios and social housing, has attracted a wide range of visitors. On its rooftop is the OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie and public viewing terrace which take full advantage of the outstanding location. The residential area below consists of five floors of affordable housing association flats with their own entrance, lifts and parking.

views from the viewing platform of the Oxo Tower

But we were there to shop, and on the first and second floors are over 25 design shops where some of the country’s leading designers work and sell jewellery, fashion, textiles, ceramics, glass, lighting, product design and interior accessories. On the ground level are cafes, a hairdressers, flower shop and the gallery@oxo which features a changing programme of exhibitions. Across the courtyard is Bargehouse which hosts exhibitions and events including an annual series of graduate shows. But I’m going to give a special mention to some of the shops we visited.

Wagumi

Wagumi is a design shop owned and produced by Lives Inc from Japan. It aims to showcase the best in Japanese design and crafts – and in so doing assist small producers, bringing new life to traditional aesthetics, and supporting fresh ideas in design. Everything in the shop is not only designed in Japan, but also made in Japan.

Christmas Shopping at Wagumi, the oxo tower

Great gifts for – design conscious friends, plant lovers (there’s a lovely selection of kokedamas), tea lovers, and daughters (see the Daruma wishing dolls).

Archipelago

Doreen Gittens has had her store at The Oxo Tower for 20 years. She weaves her luxurious throws, bed covers and hangings at her loom in the store using only the finest natural yarns of cotton, linen and silk. She can also weave silks into light gossamer fabrics for scarves and bridal shawls as well as interior fabrics. Doreen’s skill set is highly valued and walking into her shop and workspace allows customers to view exactly how every product is made.

Christmas Shopping at Archipelago, The Oxo Tower

Doreen’s gift suggestion: “My favourite items are the orange and red scarfs/shawls, ideal for getting cosy this Winter”.

Snowden Flood

While living in New York in the 1990’s, designer Snowden Flood became obsessed with a passion for designing and manufacturing high quality gifts and souvenirs that are actually made in the UK. Thus her business started when she returned home to London to settle permanently in 2000. Today she is famous for her plates and chinaware showing London landmarks. Often championing new and emerging designers, every maker whose work is stocked in Snowden’s studio shares a similar ethos to her own in terms of their strong emphasis on quality and care they take in making their products.

Christmas Shopping at Snowden Flood at the Oxo Tower

Snowden Flood’s gift suggestions: “I LOVE my London landmark bone china baubles, AND I have a bunch of new Xmas cards that I just launched and are colourful and fun”.

Bramwell Brown

Bramwell Brown was born out of a fondness for old clock mechanisms and the extra interaction you get from traditional instruments compared with their modern digital equivalents. After a failed search to find a barometer that held any appeal for use in their own homes, the brother-sister duo had the idea to reinvent one that would be more contemporary yet still analogue. Soon after the idea developed into designs which gradually evolved into the ‘mechanimated clocks’ launched in 2015.

Christmas Shopping at Bramwell Brown, the oxo tower

Rob and Sarah’s gift suggestion: “Our small Weather Clock is probably one of our favourite gifts from the collection, but equally if you know someone who loves London, the London Weather clock would make a really special and unique gift this Christmas”.

Electrobloom

Jewellery designer and Royal College of Art graduate Mark Bloomfield is a digital craftsman. His fascination with the natural world is reflected in his brightly coloured floral jewellery that is digitally manufactured and finished by hand. He has designed for some of the most influential and prominent designers, including Asprey, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and Matthew Williamson.

Christmas Shopping at Electrobloom, the oxo tower

Mark’s gift suggestion: “My giant allium rings are a personal favourite, they remind me of a mini explosion frozen in time, packed full of potential, just like the natural seed heads that inspired them”.

Alan Vallis

Alan Vallis designs and makes contemporary jewellery inspired by many diverse influences. His stacking rings (which he has been designing and making for many years – long before they became so popular) are inspired by travels to the Middle East with glorious decorative patterns, textures and colours.

Christmas Shopping at Alan Vallis, the oxo tower

Alan Vallis gift suggestion: “A pair of silver earrings, or an item from a new series of tiny fish pendants that are a recent addition to my collections”.

Innermost

Innermost founders Steve Jones and Russell Cameron gave up their jobs within design consultancy and furniture design to pursue a shared dream of this unique but diverse furniture and lighting brand. Their quirky and rebellious approach to design is driven by high-spirited London culture, and the brand aims to combine classical English tradition while also purveying taste and quality with a non-conformist attitude. And if you need more persuasion to visit this showroom, Innermost have their own gin bar where they even serve their own Ginnermost gin.

Just what you need after a hard days Christmas shopping.

Christmas Shopping at Innermost, the oxo tower

Innermost’s gift suggestion: “The Yoy light is a perfect Christmas present, better still buy two – one for you and one for Santa”!

The Oxo Tower Wharf late night shopping event takes place on Thursday 1st December 5 – 8pm.
An evening of live music, workshops and demonstrations, free festive treats, and unique present ideas.
Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London SE1 9PH

Click for more info

Top photograph of the Oxo Tower by Oliver Rudkin

November 4, 2016

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20 Comments

  1. Reply

    Tiffany

    November 11, 2016

    Absolutely love the OXO Tower but can’t remember the last time I visited-I must make time before the Christmas chao starts. And yes, I hate all that too. Anything for the quiet life…xxx

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 11, 2016

      October Comms are doing a press tour I think Tiff. Email Kate and she’ll get you on that. x

  2. Reply

    Stacey Sheppard

    November 9, 2016

    I’ve not felt the Christmas spirit in the run up to Christmas for a good few years now and after reading this post I’ve learned why. Online shopping is the thief of Christmas spirit. You’re right, it’s so much easier to buy it all online but you do miss out on that lovely shopping experience. Thanks for telling me about the Oxo tower, never heard of it before.

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 10, 2016

      You’re welcome Stacey. I can see how Christmas shopping online is preferable with two little ‘uns. x

  3. Reply

    Arianna

    November 9, 2016

    oh wow! I so want to go – I’ve never been inside before! Can we make it a date when I’m back – little shopping followed by food and a glass of vino 😉 xxxx

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 10, 2016

      That’s a date Hun xx

  4. Reply

    Katy

    November 8, 2016

    I walk past the Oxo tower far too often without going in. Next time I will definitely pop in and allow myself to be tempted x

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      Would be a shame not to Katy 🙂

  5. Reply

    Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely

    November 8, 2016

    Shopping and a gin bar??!!! Carol, that’s the dream!! I’m rarely in London but have two trips to make before Christmas and I’d love to pop to the Oxo Tower. I had no idea there were shops in it.

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      Go there if you can Rachel. The gin bar is open from 3pm btw. Make a note of that haha. x

  6. Reply

    Antonia Ludden

    November 8, 2016

    I’ve just enjoyed a day trip to London to do some Xmas shopping, but didn’t get to the OXO tower. I have been before, but have to say I didn’t appreciate the history nor realise there are such nice finds there. Definitely a place for me to revisit next time I’m in the capital! x

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      I’d recommend it next time you’re in London definitely 🙂

  7. Reply

    Maxine Brady

    November 8, 2016

    I love love love the weather clock. I’ll have to ask Santa if he will pick me one up on his way down from London to Brighton….failing that, I’ll book in a shopping trip 🙂

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      Book a trip Maxine. I haven’t featured all of the shops – there are quite a few more 🙂

  8. Reply

    Karen Clough

    November 7, 2016

    Your images are stunning! And how lovely that all these fab shops are under one roof! I’ve never heard of this place before not being local to London but what a view!

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      Thanks Karen. Yes the views are stunning. Imagine working in a studio with the Thames rolling by out of the window. Heaven.

  9. Reply

    Karen - Making Spaces

    November 7, 2016

    Filled to the brim with some great designers. I didn’t even know the OXO tower had shops in, let alone small independents. Great post Carole!x

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      Thanks Karen. It’s well worth a visit. x

  10. Reply

    Will

    November 7, 2016

    Carole! Now you have me craving both a shopping trip AND a Ginnermost gin at 10:12AM hahaha. xx

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 8, 2016

      And what’s wrong with that Will? Pretend you’re on UK time xx

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