The nature of the year justifies a small treat now and then. It demands red fluffy socks and Bavarian pencil sharpeners. It makes a plea for a Japanese toolbox, and some obscure cologne from Porto, and in the darkest of times, says: “you there, go fetch a new watering can. Because, well, you look like you need one.”
And you wouldn’t want just any watering can, would you? Because you are a man of taste, you might go to the trusted team at London’s Labour and Wait—a homeware emporium—for proper advice. “When a man is tired of Labour and Wait, he is tired of life” wrote Dr. Samuel Johnson famously. Genuinely. Not even slightly paraphrased. And like everything the good doctor said—correct.
It is on Redchurch Street in fashionable Shoreditch, and you must go. Established back in 2000 by designers’ Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins, the original vision was to give people a place they could rely on for timeless, beautifully-designed products that extend through the kitchen, office, garden, and even what they wear.
This is a place that not only sells, but tirelessly seeks: all of the tools, homeware, and clothes are imported from family-run businesses around the world, and sold at great value. If you’re like me, a bit of a hoarder—with eyes bigger than your wallet—you can admire a German pocket-knife or a hand-woven Guernsey sweater a metre apart; then, on the next shelf, a box of inexpensive paper clips made in Italy.
Because everything is carefully selected from artisans, who create things in the traditional way, whatever you see has a unique story behind it. Eyeing up the curated shelves at Labour and Wait can get you excited over the small things, like the aforementioned paper clips. Then, on a whim, you leave with the paper clips; and now you’ve somehow got a favourite family-run brand of Italian paper clips that surpass all others.
This is what Labour and Wait does to you. It sparks Proustian joy in the smallest objects—which in turn become a large part of your everyday routine. It is a shop full of discoveries, crafts, and stories, where my guiltless (sometimes overbearing) adult-want can have a little fun, and treat itself to something that is both useful and special. Like that watering-can we spoke about.
Originally posted as part of the Gents Cafe Newsletter, a bite-sized read about men’s lifestyle to enjoy over a coffee or a nice cocktail. Join now!