A Conversation with Lucy Kumara Moore of Claire de Rouen Books
Interview and Photography: Jan-Michael Stasiuk
With a distinguished yet subtle history, Claire de Rouen embodies the ideal space for print, fashion, and photography aficionados. With floor to ceiling editions of obscure and relevant books and magazines, the modest London shop delivers an experience more akin to a gallery visit than a day out shopping. I spoke with director and owner Lucy Kumara Moore on what makes Claire de Rouen so special.
Can you tell us about how Claire de Rouen started and how you got involved?
Claire de Rouen herself was an incredible book dealer, who headed photo and fashion departments in specialist bookstores on Charing Cross Road before opening her own shop in 2005. Located in a tiny space on the first floor at no. 125, it’s above a sex shop - which is no surprise given that erotic photographer Bob Carlos Clarke inspired Claire to go solo and find a venue of her own. The bookshop still occupies the same address.
I came to be Director because of a whimsical moment one evening in 2009 when I told my then-boyfriend that I dreamed of owning a bookshop. Claire was an acquaintance of his and we were introduced that way. We bonded straight away; she was wonderful. It was very sad when she became ill, and I felt very honoured that she asked me to look after the shop after her death. She has an important legacy to protect and build upon.
You opened by hosting a party for Bruce Weber in 2005 and have seen many important and influential artists come through the doors over the years, what moments really stand out for you?
Claire de Rouen events are a mix of fun, beautiful, glamorous book launches and more analytically-focused talks and reading groups. I have loved the launches I’ve done with Juergen Teller, Collier Schorr and Ed and Deanna Templeton, and the magazine events for Hot and Cool and BEAT. I am very proud of a series of reading groups based on the work of British photographer Jo Spence, in which we discussed Susan Sontag, Michel Foucault, and the politics of childbirth over three sessions.
I recently set up an occasional talks series in partnership with the London EDITION hotel. Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen spoke with Chris Dercon, the outgoing Director of Tate Modern. It was an important talk in which Viviane discussed many aspects of her work - which she had not previously in this kind of setting.
My most precious moment to date was the launch of a special edition of POP magazine with a cover by Wolfgang Tillmans, which was a Claire de Rouen offsite event at Maureen Paley, held last December. It was extremely special, Wolfgang was in attendance to sign copies and we screened the world premiere of the film for the new EP from Fragile - his ongoing band project.
From an industry perspective we've seen print and media platforms adopt a more digital approach in recent years, how do you find certain titles to remain relevant?
Print magazines are more important than ever. They are special arenas in which ideas can be presented alongside each other in a precise way. They are sensual objects – they feel glossy or smooth, for example – and they deliver content silently, so that we focus our attention on what we’re looking at or reading. They still gather a tribe, like they always have. The VOUGE for special edition covers for example and limited edition book supplements makes this type of media even more collectible.
Who is a typical Claire de Rouen patron, or is there one? Do you find with the ability to shop online your client base still stays loyal in such a niche market?
I am lucky to have very loyal customers. I choose what I think are the most important, original and beautiful print products of our time - and my customers respond to this. It’s convenient that they can buy online but so many of them also come to the shop from all over the world. They’re a mix of book enthusiasts, artists, photographers, stylists, students, art directors, fashion designers, writers and those looking for books simply for pleasure and inspiration, which is as good a reason as any!
How do you decide what titles to carry? Are there any specific traits you look for when choosing new titles or publications?
I look for authenticity, confidence and style in a publication. I like opinions which diverge from the norm, as well as new contributions to current cultural discourse, whether in the form of image or text; in fact not so many people know this, but Claire de Rouen has a section on cultural commentary, poetry and prose.
Your work takes you beyond Claire de Rouen into fashion journalism, teaching and event programming. Could you tell us how these activities contribute to one another or how you manage to balance so many different positions?
I like to think deeply, and to expand my knowledge of photographs, fashion designers and artists who I find especially interesting. As for my work as a writer, commenting on fashion and art fulfills these inclinations. I often write for POP and Arena Homme +, two of the best magazines there are, in my opinion. I’ve also written for Marfa Journal, Hotshoe and Luncheon recently. And I teach occasionally which I love because I’m obsessed with the minds of people younger than myself. They are the future! I really love talking to them about their ideas. I learn from them just as much as they learn from me.
In 2014, I set up a book fair called Room&Book which was held at the ICA in London that year and the following. The ambition was to foreground the role of the book dealer and to create essentially, the very best book shop in the world, by bringing together all the best dealers under one roof.
What is in the future for yourself and Claire de Rouen?
I am launching a new publishing house this year. It will focus on the interplay of art and fashion over the past 40 years. I’m very excited about this! There will also be a new focus on artists’ books in 2017 – I’ll be introducing more self-published and limited edition books and programming events around this important format.
125 Charing Cross Road | 1st Floor
London | WC2H 0EW