North London Food & Culture

The Travelling Skirt, Old Mother London

Spotted Old Mother London on Malden Road?

We chat to the one-woman show behind this very creative pop-up in west Kentish Town


hat, we wondered the other day, is the ethos behind the arty social enterprise that currently occupies the vacant shop on one NW5’s lesser-noted thoroughfares?

“I wanted to create a space where artists and designers can collaborate together and share their knowledge; a place where work can be showcased and sold,” says founder and director Roisin Dubh. “I call it an atelier’s lounge.”

There’s a range of eye-catching items available to buy in the pop-up, ranging from jewellery and vibrant Ghanian bags to bespoke scents and prints (made by Roisin herself). But more than that, it’s a community venture. “I’m really big on cross-generational links,” says Roisin. If we can get a teenager helping an elderly person at one of our workshops that’s great. I’m keen to tackle community isolation.”

And the name? “It’s a reference to my personal journey,” says Roisin. “I’m a mum, and would like to think I’m mature in terms of knowledge and soul, with an authentic depth.”


A year-long pilot project recently got underway dubbed the Travelling Skirt. A serendipitous meeting with colleague (and friend) Carolina Sanctos led to an idea for cross-cultural creative engagement. “Carolina came in thinking it was a charity shop and pulled out the most beautiful Mexican-inspired skirt,” says Roisin. “I started wondering what we could do with it.”

Roisin inside Old Mother London
Passionate Roisin inside her pop-up. Photo: Laura Evans

The upshot? The garment will make its way to nine countries; in each place a talented local artisan will make their mark on it, culminating in a diverse, fusion piece. Armenian Argishti Hovsepyan has already been in the hot seat and earlier this week the article of clothing jetted off to Gambia. Back in the capital in twelve months’ time, the artwork will exhibited and used as inspiration for forthcoming workshops.

Roisin is full of uplifting concepts. “I really want to get local primary schools involved,” she says, “there’s Rhly Street just up the road, I’d like to help them artistically and create a bit of a presence.” Her passion shines through: “I feel like I haven’t started yet,” she says, “I can see the growth, I’ve got so much to offer.”

In short, they’re building a brand, based on neighbourhood issues. “The inspiration round here is absolutely amazing,” says Roisin. When the store closes at the end of the month, things won’t end there. A website has just been launched complete with blog and online shop, and there are plans to apply for funding to facilitate things on a bigger scale.

Go check it out before it finishes its run.

Old Mother London is open at 18 Malden Road, NW5 till the end of Sept, thereafter here.

Main image: Laura Evans

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.