In another life, I would like to be Tracy Kitching. She spends her life travelling to and from India, where she spends weeks at a time rummaging for trinkets and treasures to bring back to her heavenly shop. She opened her shop in 1999
What inspired you to set up Opium?
Discovering all the beautiful old furniture, jewels and crafts in India when I travelled there for a few months. I bought some furniture for myself, which I managed to get sent back safe and sound, so that really spurred me on to start.
Best part of the job?
I am at my happiest rummaging around the dusty warehouses in India discovering beautiful treasures. They often need a lot of restoration to bring them back to their former glory and I really enjoy overseeing that process. And of course I love designing the jewellery - I find the creativity quite meditative. But being in the shop is wonderful too - it's such an inspiring space and you never know what each day will bring or who will cross your path.
Doing the quarterly VAT return - it always seems to come round very fast indeed!
Opium's best seller?
The gold plated stones jewellery range flies out of the shop, especially the earrings and cocktail rings. Our mirrors made from antique Indian doorways are also very popular as well as our marble lotus plates and Ganesh and Buddha statues.
Where do you hunt for your treasure?
I buy mostly in Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, but we source beautiful pieces from all over India including tribal areas such as Nagaland. A dealer may specialise in Orissa or Karnataka for example, but sell his pieces in one of the larger cities, such as Delhi.
A typical day in the life of Tracy Kitching?
I live at the far side of Battersea Park so my day begins on foot walking my Pugalier dog, Yogi through the park and on to the shop on the Kings Road, Starbucks in hand. There's the usual checking emails etc. and making sure the shop looks good and changing displays, putting out stock etc. At the moment we're spending a lot of time working on the on line shop to make it as wonderful to shop from as the Kings Road store. I may also spend time following up orders with India and sketching new jewellery designs for my next trip. And obviously a good part of the day is spent helping customers in the shop, be it for furniture, jewellery, gifts etc. I don't take a lunch break as I prefer to work straight through and the day always speeds by. Sometimes I go for a drink after work with friends or see a film, but most evenings I walk Yogi home and make dinner (I really enjoy cooking and am in love with the Ottolenghi cook book at the moment).
Future plans for another shop?
We are very much concentrating on the on line shop at the moment and of course we do have the Opium Warehouse at Fulham. We regularly take clients there if they want to see all the furniture we have in stock. It would be lovely to open a shop in north London and although it may sound a little crazy, I would like to open a shop in India one day!
What would you eat at your last supper?
Either a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea or a steak with green peppercorn sauce and frites from my favourite bistro in New York, Lucien.
Who would be your guests?
Well it would have to be my family plus Yogi.
Favourite place to stay and eat in India?
It would have to be at my friends, Cathy & Roberto Nieddu's wonderful home in Jodhpur. But otherwise I love staying at Narain Niwas in Jaipur and the Samode Haveli in the Old City is very special for dinner. I would also recommend the Ganges View Guest House at Assi Ghat in Varanasi both for staying and for the delicious home-cooked food. The Master Guest House in Delhi also has a very special place in my heart.
Tips for travelling around India?
Well I would recommend travelling by train as much as you can - it is a very real but magical experience. And also be brave enough to get in amongst it all. Indian people are very gracious and welcoming.