Visiting IDEA Books

Interview & Photography Chris Black

IDEA Books

IDEA Books is a London-based operation that sells (and publishes) some of the best hard-to-find, out-of-print and highly collectible books, magazines and monographs from the worlds of art, photography and fashion. Founded by Angela Hill and David Owen, the store is an invaluable resource for the creative set, providing inspiration materials for designers, photographers and creative directors. While they have physical locations at Dover Street Market in London and New York, and the Comme des Garçons Trading Museum in Paris, they truly thrive online, specifically on Instagram, where they post multiple publications every day. If you see something you can't live without on their popular feed, you can simply send them an email and work out the details. It's a wonderfully modern approach to book selling, and it seems to be working quite well. On a recent trip to London, I visited their Wardour Street offices in Soho where all the magic happens. I was left alone to browse the well-stocked shelves and it took everything in my power not to empty my bank account. I spoke with David about his love for books, how Instagram has impacted his business and the future of IDEA.

When did you fall in love with books? Do you have a specific memory of when it clicked?
Honestly, I am not so bothered about books as ‘books.’ I am very much bothered and ‘in love with’ what is in quite a few of them. The book has been the most convenient medium for talent and ideas for a few hundred years. That may not always be the case.

IDEA thrives online. How did you decide to make Instagram your platform?
We spotted the potential of Instagram relatively early – by which I mean about a year late! We saw the potential when we had less than 100 followers and then told everyone how big it would be for selling books. That said, we had no idea it could pick up an audience of 190K, which is what it clicked over to today. 

You have locations at DSM in London and New York and another at the Comme des Garçons Trading Museum in Paris. Are there plans for a standalone IDEA store in the future?
Not especially. We like the fact that we exist at all. Also people probably now associate us very strongly with Instagram but that is only the half of it. Really we exist in the conversation. In a very literal way, people really do have discussions with each other based on the books or images from books that we post. It is happening all the time and globally too. This is where we are focussed and if having stores helps build that, then maybe, but it is not going to be the next move that’s for sure. 

What’s next from IDEA on the publishing side?
We can never say what is coming next. We do things right at the last minute. The Collier Schorr book was two weeks from first contact to sold out. Willy Vanderperre was ten days. We do have a big project for March, which happens to be when the new Dover Street Market opens in London. It will be a hugely popular book – that’s all we can say!