Up such a set of steps on the Charing Cross Road is fashion and art bookshop Claire de Rouen Books. Since the 2012 passing of legendary Soho fixture and original owner Claire, Lucy Moore has been running the shop under the ownership of a group of friends – including Lily Cole, who published her own book, Impossible Utopias, with Claire de Rouen Books last year.

Aside from the shop, Moore also runs Room&Book, the annual art book fair at the ICA that focuses specifically on book dealers and not publishing houses. While there will be books and magazines at the event (“There are things like the first ten issues of i-D magazine, which is rather exciting,” Moore says) there will also be clothing from Tyrone Lebon’s DoBeDo collective and fresh vinyl from London label/publisher Test Centre.

Because: So, you knew Claire before taking over the store. Tell us a bit about her.
Lucy Moore: She really fostered the work of lots of young photographers and also had great relationships with lots of the fashion students from Saint Martins, which used to be on this street. And she was very generous in introducing all those students to photography from all over the world. There are some key designers now who cite her as a real influence on their work, or an inspiration from that time. Giles Deacon and Jonathan Saunders, that generation. People like even Simone Rocha, who is younger, I think knew Claire quite well.  She was very glamorous and had an incredibly mysterious, striking persona. In that sense, she's from that pre-digital era, where a tiny number of people might have a real persona or mystery about them. That doesn't really happen anymore, because we all want to tell everybody everything about ourselves. Even when I met her, which was quite late in her life, she was still very much incredibly dressed and very interesting and just magnetic, really. And the shop was incredible. When I first came here, I just thought it was lovely, all the books. I remember we went out for a drink after I first met her. She was wonderful, she was just wonderful. And she always got the bus home to Kensington. 

Do you think that the customer base has changed somewhat since Central Saint Martins has moved?
LM: Amazingly, lots of CSM students still come here and they get a special discount. They get ten percent and it's a special thing that I only do for them to acknowledge that friendship and keep it alive. In fact, Louise Wilson, when she was last here, she claimed her discount as well. So they do still come.

You lived in Australia for a time and worked as an artist before agreeing to run the shop when Claire fell ill. How do you use your art background when it comes to buying for Claire de Rouen?
LM: There's a really strong overlap between art and fashion. I think the fashion world is really interested in the art world, and sometimes vice versa. That's quite nice. I really like introducing some designer to a new artist that might have a particular aesthetic that's interesting for them. On the other hand, there are lots of artists who work with fashion. Iza Genzken, she's a German artist who makes incredible shirts and uses clothing in her sculptures. Or there's an artist called Běla Kolářová who worked a lot with stitching and safety pins. Lots of very domestic, traditionally feminine objects, but related to craft – crafting and fashion. I have some of her books here in the shop.

Do you have any books that you would bring from the shop to a desert island?
LM: Probably Irving Penn's Inventive Paris Clothes, which I love. Because I also really love captions, especially fashion captions. And Diana Vreeland's language is just so glamorous. She's quite firm in her belief in certain styles, but not irreverent, just fun. Really fun. I'd take that, and then I'd probably take The World of Interiors by Marc Camille Chaimowicz, which is a fantastic reworking of The World of Interiors magazine by Marc Camille – he's a French artist whose book Madame Bovary I launched here. And then maybe something by Collier Schorr.

We're getting into the the second year of Room&Book at the ICA. Why have a book fair where the focus is on the dealer?
LM: The thing about book dealers is that there are so many incredible people in this country, and also globally. The idea is that, because book dealers often have really special relationships with artists, with photographers, with designers, also because they might have been doing it for forty years – they can bring together on one stand a really, really incredible selection of books from all over the world. Just having all these incredible collections that mean they can get things that no-one else can. You really get the best of recent publishing as well as rare or out of print books as well, and that's unusual. I try and focus the fair on this idea of the “new rare” which is books that might have just come out, but you know they're just going to sell out. They're collectible from the moment they’re made. And yeah, that's what makes a difference.


Room&Book will be at the ICA from May 22-24



Text by Sarah Waldron