To get to The Hackney Shop from the station, take a stroll past a couple of junkyards, a monster Tesco, some tower blocks and a run of takeaways. On entering the freshly painted little store, you’re met with rails of gorgeous catwalk fashion by designers who dress red-carpet celebrities and the models in glossy magazines. Just what is a pretty boutique like this doing in a place like Hackney?
The shop is an initiative by Hackney Fashion Hub and Hackney Council – a new development that aims to turn a portion of land (just off Morning Lane) into a vast shopping mall. The developer behind it, Manhattan Loft Corporation (responsible for the majestic St Pancras renovation), has already capitalised on footfall to the hugely popular nearby Burberry outlet by renting neighbouring property to labels Aquascutum and Pringle (which converted an old pub into a boutique). The developer has now revealed grand plans for a 6,250-square-metre mall next to the Burberry premises. Due to open in 2016, it will house discount outlets for designer brands, workshops and pop-up spaces where up-and-coming local designers can sell their products. This pocket-size shop, a few strides from Burberry, is an early arriver.
At first glance, The Hackney Shop seems financially out of reach to many locals – on our visit, the shop was in the hands of Roksanda Ilincic and Jonathan Saunders, with dresses selling for upwards of a grand. But it’s a charitable enterprise offering rent-free space by the week to local designers. It gives them a chance to shift past-season products and sell direct to the fashion-conscious population that makes up a large proportion of the surrounding demographic. The pictures in our gallery were taken during the tenure of show-stopping jeweller Tessa Edwards, who transformed the space into a foil-wrapped magpie’s paradise, and future stints from the cream of London’s new fashion talent are lined up, including House of Holland and Agi & Sam. But not all of the imminent pop-ups will be so pricey – and many designers will use the shop as an outlet for discounted products. Moreover, all of the Manhattan Loft Corporation’s projects are in conjunction with Hackney Council’s Ways Into Work, which has already secured employment for 24 young locals.
Phillip Harrison, a 22-year-old Aquascutum employee, describes how the scheme had a positive impact on his life: ‘I was on Jobseeker’s Allowance and had been on benefit for three years. I was looking for work with an old CV and wasn’t getting any interviews. I was very disheartened about most aspects of my life and I’d lost my ambition. Ways Into Work gave me an interview techniques workshop and eventually I found a full-time job with a high-end fashion retailer that’s near my home. It’s given me my hunger back.’
Meanwhile, local designer Katherine Pont, who takes over The Hackney Shop on July 15 with her fashion website Swanfield, can’t believe her luck: ‘A small business like mine, which represents new independent designers, can’t afford to pay commercial rates and rents, so it’s hard to get window space anywhere. We’re very excited to have a little space of our own, if only for a week.’
Apply for a week in the shop to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hackney Shop is number 86 in our list of the 100 best shops in London.