It struck me at midnight on Wednesday that I just had to feature Taylors Buttons before leaving Fitzrovia. The reason for this is simple - Taylors keeps rather old-fashioned opening hours; 11am - 4pm, closed at the weekends. I can't say I blame the wonderful Mrs Maureen Rose, if I ran a shop I would do the same. I have got far too used to running over there in my lunch looking for the perfect statement button to replace cheap ones on my latest threads. It's one of my top peeves that the high street fashion retailers won't spend their margin on fixing beautiful buttons to garments. They just shove the cheapest matching plastic button going and the consumer puts up with it. But changing the buttons on a jacket can elevate something from the ordinary into the magical for just a few pounds. I have jet black glass buttons bought from Taylors years ago on my Jigsaw swing coat. Buttoning up is a luxurious experience; the cool feel of the glass buttons between my fingers, not to mention looking very elegant. As I approach Cleveland street I marvel at the colossal building site of the former Middlesex hospital. Demolished to make way for 11 storey high flats for which residents of the Georgian houses opposite receive compensation. Their view will be horribly affected and I wonder how many of these modern flats will remain vacant for 11 months of the year, bought by non doms to shore up cash funds. In the midst of all the rubble, Maureen sits amongst piles of vintage button boxes going about her trade. Interestingly, the building the shop is based in was occupied twice by Charles Dickens. Taylors is a family run business established over 100 years ago with their first shop in Soho. Maureen's late husband Leon took over the business over fifty years ago having trained in a button factory and his Uncle (also in the trade) mentored him when he bought Taylors. Leon moved the shop from 1 Silver Place to its present location on 22 Cleveland Street. When Maureen married Leon I suspect she brought her own flair to the table.
It's a tiny shop crammed floor to ceiling with boxes of buttons, most of them vintage and art deco, never to be seen again once sold. Maureen can dye to match any colour of button for a beloved garment at a very reasonable price. Moreover, she can make a fabric belt to match any dress covering the buckle and backing the belt with leather - all for less than £20. This makes her a sartorial heroine in my book. It saddens me that Button Queen in Marylebone Lane seems to steal her limelight. Give me Taylors' bespoke service any day over Button Queens new slick looking shop. Did you know every plastic button starts life white before hitting the dye vats? I learn something new every time I visit. But I've come to the conclusion that Maureen is far too modest for her own good. I hadn't a clue that she supplied 40,000 handmade buttons to line the walls of Alan Ducasse's restaurant at The Dorchester hotel in Park Lane. It took 6 months to complete and looked stunning. She has worked with couture stalwarts such as Hardie Amies and Norman Hartnell through to costumes for film and theatre. Famous clients include the Queen, Margaret Thatcher and one scarlet belt sported by Bond girl Eva Green in Casino Royale. The list goes on so please visit her website to learn more;
Maureen told me that whilst her son built her website she is not keen on e-commerce and prefers retailing through the shop. She has over 100 buttons on-line but cataloguing the entire shop's stock must be a daunting task. I'm inclined to agree, if only because buttons are such tactile objects. There is no substitute for appreciating the shiny glint of gold or the true colour of a button in daylight. You need to lay a button on a garment to bring it to life. You need to rummage through the cardboard boxes with their original fifties font labels to realise just how unique each button is. You could think designing a button could be quite limiting until you visit the vast array at Taylors. They sit there like confectionary in an old fashioned sweet shop.
There probably would not be any point in tidying up and it looks like organised mess to me. If you ask nicely Maureen will open her little drawers of treasures for you. From alphabetically labeled drawers I purchased little vintage name tags of my initials I S, just like the ones I used to have at school. She also has pretty vintage cotton reels in the colours of sugared almonds for sale. Oh and the original shop fittings are to die for, I've offered to buy them so many times I've given up asking. On this occasion I took the time just to admire this rare shop chat to Maureen, long may she continue.