Fox & Squirrel Creative Walks/ Travel Image : Duncan Nicholls
We talk to the lady behind Fox & Squirrel, Penelope Sacorafou Clague, who takes people on creative walks around London which are perfect for the cultured explorer.
The business started in 2010 when yourself and your friend Jojo were looking for jobs after graduating. You were inspired by the ‘Victorian Lady’s Guide Association’. Can you tell us more about this and how you came up with the idea for creative walks around London?
At the time of its founding the Victorian Lady’s Guide Association was responding to the commercialisation of London and the city’s growth as a centre for retail in Europe. Obviously, these forces also led to the rise of middle class, and the liberalization of education for women. Having realized and embraced these changes the Lady Guide Association sought to capitalize on the city, but also on fashion, shopping and women.
Although the financial crash of 2007 was caused by completely different and unique reasons to previous economic crisis, Jojo and I saw similarities between the two periods in that they both expressed an interest in cities and a change in the standing of women. As a result we were inspired by history and sought to create a contemporary version of our entrepreneurial predecessors.
The rest as you say is ‘history’
You have a group of creative individuals who act as guides for your creative walks. Can you tell us more about them and their expertise? What makes your guides unique?
Our walks are different from others in that we aspire to different aims than the usual walking tours. Although we focus on history, we are also eager to showcase the present and the creative makers and shakers of London that shape the city we live in and that impact our future. Our guides will narrate the past but introduce our guests to working chefs, young artists and designers, creative businesses and heritage brands. Our walks are equally about learning as they are about sharing information and meeting people.
You offer bespoke walks for those looking for a more personalised experience in the capital. Why do you think this type of experience is becoming more popular?
On our art walks you’ll meet gallery owners and artists and enjoy the opportunity to discuss with them the mechanics of exhibition making as well as the work on display; on our fashion walks you’ll head straight to the workshops where tailors create the finest suits and wedding outfits all hand made and completely bespoke; on our food walks you’ll visit archives and tea rooms, as well as cooking schools and sometimes some food establishments that one would generally disregard, and yet behind these lay beautiful London stories.
Bespoke has come to mean customized as opposed to completely unique… In our case bespoke walks are those that look into the industries that create bespoke; that is, one off items. People are interested in unique items because in a world of mass and fast consumption a one off piece stands out for its uniqueness. People understand the time invested in its creation, they appreciate the materials used, and realize the unique expertise and knowledge involved in the making process.
While luxury has become more widespread and democratized it has also become harder to define and experience. As we progress I can only see the definition of luxury relying on the unique and experiential and that is why bespoke experiences have become more sought after than ever before.
I expect a massive boom in the experiential and travel industry due to this trend.
What are your top tips for a visitor coming to London for the first time? What would you suggest they do and see?
London has incredibly flat terrain so it’s a really walkable city. For this reason, I’d advise guests to walk around, and while they do so to look up and down, left and right. There are a lot of details to be found which hide some of London’s most beautiful stories. I’d encourage visitors to be inquisitive and to ask questions when they explore. There are also some beautiful novels that have been inspired by London. My bookcase is filled with them so if you ever after some inspiration send me an email and I’ll ping you a list of books that will familiarize you with London before your arrival.
You have lots of experience in fashion communications and write for a number of other publications including the Huffington Post. How does this experience influence Fox and Squirrel?
Foremost my writing makes sure I keep a finger on the pulse in that it urges me to research and seek out new things. I then incorporate these in my walks. I have a regular column for The Mayfair Magazine and I love using it as an excuse to research my favorite London area.
Fox and Squirrel has collaborated with other well-known businesses before including The Connaught and The New Craftsman. Can you tell us about these collaborations? Any other exciting projects in the pipeline?
Yes, we’ve collaborated with some great brands and people. Our relationship with The Connaught has been longstanding. We initially started with walks on the royal warrants and then followed this up with a look into the definition of luxury. It’s been great fun collaborating with the Connaught in that we’ve developed a strong bond with the team there and we are now almost part of the furniture!
The New Craftsmen is a fun and young collaboration, we share a love for the handmade and the British crafts industry as well as high curiosity levels so it’s always great to research for them and create walks that look into the finer details.
Our next collaboration is with London Craft Week, we’ll be dedicating a day to exploring the heritage of fashion in the East End. In addition, we are running a one-year program of one off walks that see creative Londoners hailing from different industries co-host walks with us. I’m really proud of this collaboration, and launching it soon on our site.
Finally, we are starting our own women’s club in collaboration with Belgraves in West London that will tackle the difficulties faced by budding female businesswomen irrespective of age!
Both yourself and your current business partner Lindsay have called London home for a large part of your lives. What do you love most about London? How does the city inspire you?
The city inspires us in so many ways. First of all, it is constantly changing and the ability to do so is a source of inspiration in itself. But, without wanting to sound cocky, we allow ourselves to be susceptible to change. The last thing we want is to stand like monoliths in London and to be eroded by time. Both of us come from small places where we found familiarity comforting and suffocating in equal measures so I suppose in London we sought after the familiar in change. I think I speak for both that change inspires us both the most.
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