“My answer to anybody who wonders where fabric is used is this: wherever you can imagine fabric being used, that’s where we supply.” So says Simon Lipman, current owner of Borvick Fabrics in Berwick Street.
And he should know. No-one understands the ins and outs of his craft as well as he does. The store is the oldest fabric shop in Soho and one of the most famous across London. Established in 1932 by the Borovick family it operated throughout the Second World War, moving seamlessly through the changes of the Swinging 60s, all the way to the Soho of the heady 2000s to now, where it still stands proudly.
“… wherever you can imagine fabric being used, that’s where we supply.” – Simon Lipman
Simon Lipman arrived at the company during the 1980s aged just 17 and has been there ever since, eventually becoming Director for 15 years. He purchased the company from the Borovick family in 2016. “It was a natural progression when the opportunity arose to make the big decision for my family and I. The idea was to just make subtle changes to add some of our own influence, take it on its next steps but really maintain that fundamental Borovicks core.”
A cornucopia of colours and textures, the vivid fabrics that adorn the walls of the small space on Berwick Street – it occupies the same location since its inception over 80 years ago – speak of the variety of individuals and industries the company supplies. Uniquely placed in its ability to evolve with the changing face of the textiles industry (whilst retaining an old school level of service) Borovicks is a Soho staple.
The business has indeed become renowned for the expertise and approachability of its staff over the years and prides itself on the one-to-one advice staff offer. According to Lipman, “It is still in some way quite old fashioned in the way that you deal with your clients. First and foremost – and it’s a really old adage – is that the customer comes first. I can vouch for the fact that is the reality here. Any business worth its sauce has to build on a customer relationship.”
Employees of Borovicks are highly schooled in the art of fabrics. “I will say the most junior member of staff has clocked up over 25 years!” Simon laughs. “So the level of expertise, learnt over years, is high.” Such dedication to service and quality has earned the company a global reputation (Borovicks ships worldwide) and a loyal following in film and theatre.
Down the years the company has supplied materials for a host of major theatre, film and TV productions, many of which have gone on to win Tonys, BAFTAs and Oscars. The store remains a favourite of Central Saint Martins fashion students and holds ranges for bridal, evening wear and interior furnishings. Attitude and service however, remain the same for all customers; Simon assures us that “The crux of the business is you still get the same service whether you’re spending five pounds or five thousand.”
“The good thing about here is that whilst working, you do develop your own personal style in serving someone. How you attend to them depends on how much attention you give. It’s important to listen to what they want.”
One of the most interesting developments facing independent businesses today has been the dawn of the digital age. While currently in the process of revamping their website, Simon asserts that for Borovicks, first hand service will always be paramount.
“The crux of the business is you still get the same service whether you’re spending five pounds or five thousand.”
“Our website is going to be a pictorial website, it’s not going to be e-commerce. When you want to purchase fabric, it’s very tactile. You need to feel it, see it. It’s very sensual. It’s very easy to look through a whole lot of pictures. But often if you’re unsure, how will you know it’s going to suit the dress? It’ can be difficult to replicate colours and textures with a camera, so we always make sure to send swatches first.”
Another challenge facing so many small businesses has of course been the impact of Coronavirus. Whilst difficulties have been inevitable, as Simon can attest, Borovicks lights still remain on. “The main thing really, is that I have made no redundancies of any of our staff.” Lipman says. “No matter how hard things are, that was so important to me. Because at the end of the day, we are a family, you know? That’s what Borovicks is all about.”
Part of our #MadeInSoho series.
📍 Borovick Fabrics 16 Berwick St, Soho, London W1F 0HP | IG: @borovickfabrics
This article was originally published in the Winter issue of My Soho Times. CLICK HERE to view online.
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