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Soho magazine institution Wardour News is closing

Founder Raj Patel discusses his memories of the store, appearing on the cover of Marfa Journal, and what’s next

It’s 10am on a grey morning in London’s Soho, and inside Wardour News a man is asking Raj Patel, the shop’s founder, where he’s going to get his magazine fix from now. Raj shrugs and quietly tells him he doesn’t know. It’s the same question he’s been asked by a steady stream of customers every day this week, after news broke that the magazine mecca would be closing next month.

Stacked from floor to ceiling with every fashion publication you can think of – and plenty that you likely wouldn’t have, were it not for Patel steering you in the direction of the freshest arrivals – over the course of the last 34 years, the shop has established itself as a bonafide Soho institution. But now, in what is another huge blow to the diversity of the area, the shop’s DAZED awning will be rolled in and its doors will close for the last time at the end of May. As rent continues to rise at lightning speed and development companies oust long-standing businesses from their premises, Wardour News is the latest victim.

“Soho has changed so much, I hardly recognise it,” says Patel, who is visibly crestfallen that his shop’s time has come. “It used to have such a strong community spirit. Back in the 90s, this area was all media companies, and creative companies, and magazine publishers, and now it’s been taken over by coffee and restaurant chains, because no one but the big businesses can afford the rent any more.”

Patel and his brothers – one by blood, the other a lifetime of friendship – SM and Ash (“just call us the Patel Bros, it’s much quicker,” he laughs), have spent over three decades working together, putting in 16 hour days, and working closely with publishers to champion new and emerging talent. The three have been instrumental in the success of a whole host of magazines, as they helped young creatives find their feet by lining their shelves with their publications – and Dazed was no exception.

“I remember the first time Jefferson (Hack) and Rankin came in with the very first issues of Dazed & Confused,” Patel explains. “They were so excited, they left their copies with me, and then they went and hung around over the road at number 135, waiting to see if anyone would buy it. Eventually someone did, and they ran over to them and asked to take their photograph. They’ve supported us ever since.”

As well as Jefferson, the Patels have forged strong bonds with many of fashion’s most illustrious insiders. For Patel, though, one stands out in particular. “Alexandra came to us with Marfa just out of college, so we’ve been there from the start,” he says of Marfa Journal’s founder, Alexandra Gordienko. Such was the level of their relationship, Gordienko put them on the cover of issue six of the magazine, in a series of looks by Versace and Martine Rose. “She didn’t need to do much to convince us really,” he says. “We knew how talented she was, and we knew she’d do something good, so it was very easy to say yes. The shoot was a lot of fun, and the launch party (in the store) was great too.”  

Far too modest to cite his favourite cover of the last 34 years as the one he stars on, Patel tells us it was a recent issue of Another Man that will go down as the most memorable, in part because of the crowds it drew. “It was the one with Harry Styles on it, and people went crazy for it. People were coming in every five minutes asking if we had it, but we sold out time and time again,” he explains. The same went for the 25th anniversary edition of Dazed: “we had to stop people buying more than a couple of issues, because we knew they were going up on eBay, and it wasn’t fair to our loyal customers,” he continues.

But though 65-year-old Patel has now decided to retire, those loyal customers haven’t seen the back of him. “It’s sad it’s happened this way, but you know, everything runs its course. We’re all looking forward to putting our feet up, and spending time with our wives and children and grandchildren, and just enjoying our lives. And while we won’t be working in the shop anymore, if anyone we’ve worked with or any of our friends in publishing need our help, we’ll always be there.. Make sure you tell Jefferson – we’re just at the end of the phone.”