Try shoreditch for fun and unpredictability

In the first of our series of retail insights, Julie Oxberry finds plenty of inspiration in Redchurch Street in London’s East End

Julie Oxberry
Julie Oxberry

London’s Shoreditch has been home to us for more than six years – and walking around is almost like being on set. Shops, bars and buildings crop up by the week, and the streets themselves effortlessly evolve as the backdrop to photo shoots, films, giant animal graffiti, pop-ups and general fashion shenanigans.

Shoreditch is stimulating, not just because there are like-minded types around, but because of the fresh feel of the new that hits you in the face every time you walk out the door. You cannot help but sit up and take notice, whatever the message or scene.

So what is it that keeps Shoreditch on its toes and able to constantly prove its critics wrong (many reckoned it had had its day back in the 1990s)? Well, the reality is that the East End area has stayed fresh through diversifying its interests. Since its creative origins of being home to England’s first-ever playhouse and Shakespearean production at The Theatre on Curtain Road, it has evolved as an area to embrace much more than arts, music and a smattering of ’gentlemen’s’ clubs. The truly eclectic lifestyle offering through mixed retail, galleries, clubs, hotels, delicatessens, spas, fashion colleges and much more, has served to pinpoint Shoreditch as deserving real destination appeal, rather than being likened to a one-trick pony that’s gone off the boil.

Redchurch Street in particular has been rumbling away for a while and has this year confirmed its status as the essential Shoreditch micro-destination, contributing to the all-important continual and progressive recharge. A walk up this street, which was home to Neville Brody’s Anti Design Festival in September, gives an immediately visual feel for how Shoreditch has constantly and successfully combined the past with the present and future. Listed buildings rub shoulders with 1970s pre-fabs, and new buildings yet to arrive smile out from hoardings anticipating what’s still to come.

So a virtual tour would look something like this… Starting at the Tesco end of Redchurch Street (yes, it’s all about the mix), the first shop to invite you in is Caravan, a cutesy home and gift-oriented shop selling curiosities, stuffed birds, rabbit lamps and such like. Caravan sets the scene for the street that aspires to differentiate itself from the average shopping centre.

In-between the big brands nestle galleries, a mosque and a pub – and this is the eclectic charm of the street

Next is AŽsop, the Australian plant-based skincare and haircare brand. AŽsop is famed for its individually curated stores in carefully chosen neighbourhoods ranging from rue Saint-HonorŽ in Paris, to Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. London destinations are Mayfair, Notting Hill and now, of course, Redchurch Street – when passing by, don’t forget to sample the moisturiser tester parked outside on the doorframe.

Trotting on, you get to Albion CafŽ and Bakery, and Boundary Restaurant and Hotel – generally known as Conran-owned, they are actually a combined project from Prescott & Conran, which oversaw the conversion of the late Victorian warehouse location over a three-year period. Take tea and cake downstairs in the ’caff’ and covet a cocktail on the roof terrace – in-between, you can book a hotel room inspired by great 20thand 21st-century design such as Bauhaus, Eames and Young British Designers.

Directly round the corner on Ebor Street is the original anchor experience Shoreditch House and newly refurbished Cowshed, from the Soho House Group. The private members’ club draws them in throughout the day to partake in everything from eating and drinking to sunbathing, swimming, lounging, running and bowling, to name but a few (you can book in at the delightful hotel room addition and stay all night too).

Further up Redchurch Street, newly opened Hostem, a menswear multi-brand fashion store seeks to invite the ’considered, fashion-literate gentleman who demands a sense of depth and variety in his retail experience’. Opposite Hostem sings out the exuberance of Les Trois Garcons’ antiques store, Maison Trois Garcons, by designer Hassan Abdullah, one of the three. Beyond is the Aubin & Wills men and women’s clothes store complete with cinema and bar, which prides itself on being ’only for the discerning’. Best seats in the cinema are three, four and five for their blankets, legroom and general double sofa-ness.

And finally, Labour and Wait, home to well-designed functional goods, has moved in too, only moments from their original store on Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane – it’s perfect for when you have that urgent need for a ball of string, or pegs.

In-between the big brands nestle galleries, a mosque and a pub. And this is the eclectic charm that forms the make-up of Redchurch Street – it’s where community meets individuality and unpredictability (you never know if the shops are going to be open or not). What we love about it is being able to have a brilliant breakfast, lunch and dinner, bit of shopping and a movie, in a way you can’t get anywhere else. Word has it that Paul Smith and Prada have been sizing up a piece of the Redchurch Street action, so we’ll be curious to see if these brands evolve their format experience to fit in, or whether their arrival irreversibly changes the street to fit with them.

Julie Oxberry is managing director of Household Design

Rechurch Street round-up – some key retail outlets

  • Caravan – a gift shop stuffed with curiosities
  • AŽsop – Aussie skin and haircare
  • Hostem – menswear for the fashion-literate
  • Maison Trois Garcons – antiques and collectables
  • Labour and Wait – quality household essentials

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