Interview: Aissatou Diallo, Founder of Bow’s Coffee + Fripes
Fresh from a refurb, Bow’s Coffee + Fripes is THE place to go if you love both the magical bean water and vintage clothing (the Fripes part).
We caught up with founder Aïssatou Diallo to talk about coffee (and fripes, of course), the pleasures of Bow, and the inevitable Things To Do in London (we’re obsessed).
Coffee + Fripes Images: Harley Maryon
Hi Aissatou – thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Could you tell us a bit about Coffee + Fripes, and how you came to set up a business that combines coffee with vintage clothes?
It’s a pleasure! Well, vintage clothing was my first passion, I mean, I was a teenager in the 90s, which was filled with so many different trends from the 60s and 70s. I’d always drank coffee, but I’d never thought about having a career in it until I moved to London. Then after working as a roaster for Square Mile I eventually became the European Sales manager for Caravela Coffee, a green coffee exporter from Columbia.
Then around 2021, working for so long behind the scenes had left me really craving doing something customer facing and I was interested in creating something in a neighbourhood that I really care about.
It seemed obvious to open up a speciality coffee shop by this point considering everything I had learnt over the previous eight years. Although, fun fact – I didn’t have much cafe experience so I had to go back to basics and work on the floor at the inimitable Prufrock Coffee in Farringdon. I was washing dishes and everything because I had to learn from scratch in that regard.
My love of vintage clothing was also calling and there was a point where I realised, I could do both – and use that as a USP. As it turns out, there is a big crossover between coffee drinkers and vintage clothing wearers (it’s not just me thankfully), so it’s worked out well!
What the latest hot (or cold!) trend in coffee right now? Anything we should be going out of our way to order?
The oat flat white continues to be the favourite drink of our regular East London customer, although opposite the shop we have a tattoo studio and the artists who are our regulars live on Chai Lattes!
However, something that I’m really proud of is that we offer a delicious filter coffee every day from our house roaster Square Mile or sometimes a guest, such as French Roasters Belleville and most recently Intermission Coffee. These coffees have a variety of really interesting flavours and are literally some of the best in the world (roasted by people that I trust and admire in the industry). This summer we have also made iced filter – recently we had an amazing washed Costa Rican which tasted just like a fruity chocolate bar!
We love our vintage! What draws your eye to the items you want to stock in your store?
I choose what we have in the shop by season, and by fabric type. So recently for festival season I’ve made sure to have lots of nice men’s polo tops, which are really on trend with the popularity of Fred Perry at the moment, but these are in some bright colours that you can’t find in new fashion at the moment. For women’s wear, colours are also very important but mostly I look for the cut. I know I want to wear a certain 1970s look occasionally so I’ll be looking for a “Barrymore” collar or a tapered waist. With the 90s styles which are very popular with our younger customers, I’m looking for baggy tops or flared trousers. It’s a really fun part of my job imagining the type of person that each garment might go to!
What brought you to Bow – and what can our readers look out for in Bow beyond Coffee + Fripes?
I lived here! Little did I know when I moved to London from France that Roman Road has such a rich history, but I immediately warmed to the area with its strong sense of community. My staff love getting to know the area too. One of my baristas Emma (even though she loves our vegan menu by our chef Keke aka Seeds of Wild) will usually head over to G Kelly a few doors down for their notorious vegan pie with mash and liquor, topped off with an apple crumble for dessert. Then there is the market itself, where you can find some great garms, plants and there’s a good Shea Butter stall there too sometimes.
Down the road are our friends Mae and Harvey who do a delicious breakfast and of course, if you fancy getting a tattoo you can head to the nicest tattoo parlour Dharma. Roman Road has pretty much everything you could need!
What are your favourite things to do in London? (Places to eat, drink, think, party, chill etc..)
Well, being French, I do like to adhere to my stereotype and go out for a nice glass of wine. Down the road in Bethnal Green there is a fun bar called Coupette, and one of my favourite bars also in East is People’s Wine in Dalston. I am doing a bit of a plug mentioning them because they are going to providing the wines for our next Apéro Party on the 21st September, (more details to follow on our instagram @coffeeandfripes) but their bar, which also has vintage things and cheese, is such a vibe!
Visit Coffee + Fripes at 512 Roman Rd, Bow, London E3 5ES.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.