Another Look: revisiting November Books
Cecil Court

Founded in 2010, Paul Lawrence’s tiny London bookstore is a treasure-trove of vintage books and magazines about fashion — one of the most ephemeral, and most forgetful of industries.

At November Books, though, fashion’s history is preserved and celebrated; something indisputably worthy of remembering.

Each shelf at November Books is a rollercoaster ride through international pop culture — here, Grace Coddington’s fashion memoir shares space with Nobuyoshi Araki’s subway photographs, Hoffman & McCoy’s prison reportage and Eighties comic books.

London’s secret worlds are often hidden in plain sight.

While crowds bustle along Charing Cross Road, the narrow thoroughfare of Cecil Court — tucked halfway up its side — remains a tranquil throwback to past times. And that’s exactly the way the shopkeepers of the Court want to keep it. The centre of London’s antiquarian book trade, it revels quietly in its position as olde worlde icon; Harry Potter fans, meanwhile, will recognize it as the inspiration for Diagon Alley, a place cluttered by Nikon-pointing tourists marvelling at the darkened shopfronts.
When I creak my way down the stairs to November Books, in the basement of Number 7, proprietor Paul Lawrence is shooting a flick-through video for one of his regular cult mail-outs; while he finishes up, I have a through-the-keyhole style nose about. Having worked in antiquarian bookshops in my younger days, I know them to be higgledy-piggledy places; rooms filled with tottering piles of unpacked volumes, and sheaves of papers that have been in-situ for longer than I’ve been alive. But at November Books there’s none of that. The floor space isn’t large, with a square main room that extends into a dark recess towards the rear. Carefully-filed stacks fill the shelves, arranged by genre and whim. Everywhere I look, there’s treasure: Japanese-labelled books on French film, tiny slips of pamphlets with invisible titles, hefty fashion monographs, and volumes on brands both famous and forgotten.

And Lawrence himself is not the stereotypical bookshop owner, either. In his late thirties, tall and wiry, he wears thick-framed acetate glasses and beautiful thin-gauge knitwear. Softly-spoken and studious, it’s clear that he’s an ardent, enthusiastic collector – in a reserved, and utterly British way. If Harry Potter had ever needed the services of a fashion bookshop, Lawrence would have been perfectly cast as the man beneath the Dries cloak.
But where did the shop spring from? “I was working as a print designer for Vivienne Westwood,” Lawrence explains, “and I started looking for material — partly for myself, and partly for other people. I had worked in the book trade while I was studying, and I was very familiar with this street. I also had a lot of things lying around at home, and at a certain point, I decided I should just focus on this, and basically amass a library of everything I would want. The idea was to make somewhere that you could come and do some research, and to have somewhere where all of the things you might want would be in one place.”

(This original article continues in our Issue Four)

Another Look: revisiting November Books

In Issue Four, we talk tradition and invention with the father-and-son team behind menswear label Casely-Hayford, and discuss collaborations with illustrator Sam Kerr and accessories designer Becky French. We visit Eagle GB to discover how a passion for the iconic Jaguar E Type turned into a unique luxury business. A portfolio by photographer Jonathan Daniel Pryce documents a new generation's relationship with old-school style, whilst fashion historian Amber Butchart delves into the Hartnett photographic archive to uncover the long history of British sartorial subversion. We examine the Bloomsbury Group's enduring influence, both on how we live and how we dress. And cover star Max Irons opens up about life as a young actor in today's film industry, and discusses his roles in The Riot Club, Woman In Gold and The Devil's Harvest.
There is a lot more!

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