Love & Squalor - An Interview Feature

more than a year ago
Glasgow’s West End is known for its vibrancy. It is the home of various delicious restaurants and beautiful, individual local shops, from charity and second-hand shops to bookstores and stunning interior design shops.

One of these shops is 'Love & Squalor', which is situated right in the heart of the West End on Great Western Road. Not only will the beautiful items displayed in the shop’s window make you stop in your tracks, but so will the name.

Rebecca Coyle, the shop’s owner, says that from time to time people find their way into the shop because they immediately recognise the reference and cannot believe someone would name their shop that. Others come in and ask about the name’s origin.

“It’s a book of short stories, by J.D. Salinger, who wrote The Catcher in the Rye and it’s called For Esme - With Love and Squalor and it’s one of my favourite books, I’ve always known that if I had any kind of business that that’s what I would call it ” says Rebecca, as we sit in the studio at the back of her shop on a typically rainy Glasgow evening. With a fond smile, she recalls how she found doodles and drawings from years ago with the name written on them.

It is not only the name that makes people fall in love with the shop. It’s a combination of the welcoming atmosphere, the shop’s industrial and utilitarian interiors and in main, the items and garments that are on sale. All of the merchandise is either ethically sourced or handmade at the back of the shop by Rebecca and Gloria, her employee, ensuring high quality, longevity, and ethical standards. The stock ranges from baskets and duffle bags, to fishermen smocks, jumpsuits, and dresses.

Rebecca’s own background is in costume design, while Gloria’s is in Fashion Technology. Bringing these together and the fact that they work well together makes them “a good team”, says Rebecca.
The doors of 'Love & Squalor' first opened in May 2017. “It all happened very quickly, quicker than I expected it to, to be honest,” says Rebecca. Before opening the shop, she worked as a freelance costume designer but the idea of opening up her own business was always in the back of her mind.
Just wanting to get a feel for the available properties, she came across the shop’s current home at the beginning of February 2017. She put in a bid and was surprised when she got the property.

After finishing up previous work engagements she had about six weeks until she opened the doors of the shop. During this time, she had to get all the interior work done as well as getting the stock ready. Originally the plan had been to get the garments made by a manufacturer, but because of the short time frame this ended up not working out.

I decided to make it myself,  I had myself and another friend who is a designer helping,  I took her on for the pants and she used to come to my house every day, tiny little one bed flat and we made it all ” Rebecca recalls “It was full on, but it was great, it was so exciting, I loved it!

Another challenge was all the administrative work that needs to be done in order to open a business. “There is so much that you don’t think about and costs can really spiral, even though I had a good business plan and I had done a lot of research and planning ” Rebecca recalls how overwhelming the process of making sure everything is covered can be.

About the concept Rebecca tells me: “I  wanted to create something that’s built to last, items someone of my age or someone in their seventies could wear and both would look good and would feel like themselves - I think that is quite important. I didn’t want to alienate anybody and just wanted to create pieces which were timeless, that weren’t going to date easily and that were ethical as well.” She adds that she wants her garments and items to be affordable.

At 'Love & Squalor'  customers can catch a glimpse of the behind the scenes workings of the shop. A window and doorway connect to the studio in the back, which adds to the comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. “I think they like the fact that they can see items being made - I’m always apologising to people for the mess, but they love it because it’s real and that’s what a working studio looks like.
Recently 'Love & Squalor' launched its online shop and offers masterclasses in, for example, Breton top, dress and trouser making.

When asked about  future plans Rebecca says that she does not have any grand schemes planned. “I don’t think this model of shop works on a large scale, I think it works because it’s small and because it’s personal and actually that’s the nice thing about it.”
'Love & Squalor' really shows why people are starting to rediscover the joy in shopping locally and is a prime example of the individuality and personal stories that are behind the shops found in Glasgow’s West End.

This interview feature was written by Annika Trapp, who is currently studying Media and Communication at Glasgow Caledonian University. 


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