One day, when they were particularly despondent about their job and the bookshops they went to during their lunch breaks, Marc and Montse thought that someone could make a killing if they opened a good bookshop. Not a big one. Not another large surface affair, with many floors, tables piled high with promotions and ‘3 for 2s' and 20 percent off everything. No, just a small and clever space.
Then, in typical manner, Marc went home and changed his mind. He decided that no, on second thoughts, it was not a good idea after all. The internet had arrived. The book was dead. A bookshop? What a dreadful idea! Who would be buying books in a few years time. The dotcom business – that's where they should be investing what little money and time they had.
Montse, on the other hand, continued to think about it. Yes, why not? A different bookshop. She kept thinking and talking about it so often that her then boyfriend told her to just go and talk to Marc and stop bothering him , which she did – well, talk to Marc.
And Marc changed his mind again.
Six months later, in February 2000, on Earlham street, just round the corner from where they used to work, they opened their first shop. The location was scientifically chosen in order to coincide with Marc's favourite sandwich shop (which to Marc's disappointment closed down as soon as they opened) as well as the place where Montse went to buy all her clothes (once a year, in the sales).
There were problems straight away. Montse liked to play Bjork, which Marc hated. He said she sounded like a strangled cat, which upset Montse. They have so far not managed to come to an agreement on this as well as many other subjects, though they seem both happy to listen to The Tindersticks, Anthony & The Johnsons and Serge Gainsbourg's version of Bonnie & Clyde. They also both like Joy Division but it's not the kind of music that lightens up the atmosphere and encourages customers to browse and spend.
They were pleased with the performance of their Covent Garden shop. But it was very small and restrictive when it came to experimenting with different products. New spaces in Clerkenwell and Manchester allowed them to expand their range. Starting with t-shirts – the idea being that they wouldn't be selling a label, but an artist. Experimental Jetset's attempts at creating abstract t-shirts (such as ‘ANTI.' or ‘John & Paul & Ringo & George') were, to their surprise, very popular. They moved on to explore designer toys, posters (not reproductions of Monet & Gustav Klimt paintings but new artwork by the likes of Eboy, Build & Kim Hiorthoy), dvds (this then new technology proved to be an ideal medium for showing the work of more experimental filmmakers such as Chris Cunningham & Michel Gondry) & stationery. God knows what they'll think of next. They feel, however, that it is essential to avoid the ‘gadget shop' environment and instead to design a space that works as a whole, with a strong internal logic, a shop that engages with people in a simple, direct and open manner.
They have big plans for the future. As a matter of fact these are so big, they don't know how to go about them. Aside from those revolutionary projects, Montse seems determined to take more holidays (she has a lot of catching up to do, she argues) and Marc is trying to finish the book he has been writing. It is not about bookselling.
PS. When Montse was five her mother showed her how to draw a fatcat (see picture). It is still the only thing she can draw.