Grafik first got to know Rhonda Drakeford in the early 2000s, when she was one half of award-winning graphic design partnership Multistorey. At the time, the Central Saint Martins graduate spending was her spare time indulging her passion for interiors by developing textiles and soft furnishings. Since then, Rhonda has spread her creative wings and launched critically acclaimed concept store Darkroom with Lulu Roper-Caldbeck in London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street. The shop is admired not only for its trend-setting selection of homewares and accessories – much of which Rhonda designs – but also its striking, geometry-inspired interior. We caught up with this determined talent to discuss the path that lead her to pioneer one of the most exciting retail brands in London.
What was your background before you started Darkroom?
Rhonda Drakeford: I studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins, which was very ideas-based and you were taught to be self-sufficient. When you graduate from that kind of course you feel like you could translate those skills to anything. It's always been in the back of my mind that design isn't about graphics it's about solving problems. My first job was at Elle Decoration, then I started Multistorey with Harry [Woodrow] about a year after I graduated. We were always happy to take on spatial jobs as well as more traditional print jobs, and I started doing a few projects on the side, working on soft furnishings and textiles. That kindled the idea of doing something full-time which then became Darkroom.
You run Darkroom with your business partner Lulu Roper-Caldbeck, how did you meet?
RD: I was at collage with Lulu's brother and now husband, and we became very good friends over the years. We were working separately – me in graphics and Lulu in fashion – and I asked her to help me on a textiles project I was working on. We did a couple of collections and wholesaled them, then the idea grew to do something a bit more permanent. We didn't plan for it to be a full-time job but we soon realised that it needed to be, it was all-consuming beyond everything.