Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sat 16th July: London’s New Fashion District Destination - Dalston (originally written for The Metro)

My first experience of Dalston was exactly 10 years ago during an internship at Dazed & Confused magazine. I was sent off on a 243 bus to assist Peter Jensen and the office blocks of Old Street soon morphed into the untouched factory buildings of East London. I was innocently fascinated with the colourful hub-ub of the multicultural mix of this market district. Over the last decade every London creative has taken this route and many settled in the enclave initially founded by a few fashion designers. Fine artists, graphic designers and photographers are adopting any garage space up for grabs whilst stylists are buying houses for live/work set-ups. Kingsland High Street is now a living and breathing extension of the catwalk with the city’s fashion movers and shakers going about their daily routine. In amongst the co-exisiting businesses of Cockney cobblers and Jamaican Jerk chicken shops are London’s tastemakers soaking up inspiration for next season’s trends.
With the influx of creatives assimilating in to the local community, cafes and galleries are cropping up in unassuming nooks and crannies. The first definitive destination on the map was Dalston Superstore, which has just celebrated its 2nd birthday. The airy New York style venue that houses an eatery / discothèque and exhibition space has proven so popular that its original chef has set up her own deli down the road “A Little Of What You Fancy”. Elaine’s fan base and following found her opening night to be a better attended event than some of the most memorable fashion week parties. A cross spectrum of faces representing who’s-who from the industry, turned out in support – which leads me to the first of five recommendations from Dalston based designers. New Generation / Fashion East recipient Simone Rocha suggests the scrambled eggs and roast tomatoes. Meanwhile Lyall Hakaraia (couture designer to celebrities such as Madonna and Cindy Crawford) muses:

“My top choice on the menu is the flourless chocolate cake. My daughter and I always fight for the last mouthful (I always end up winning). Yum!”

However, in addition to patronising new enterprises, the network of creatives are equally loyal to the Turkish restaurants established in the area. Nearly all the names I interviewed noted their favourite sweet and savoury spots including Creative Director of Halston, Marios Shcwab:
“Turga Baklava for chocolate baklava, Mangal on Arcola Street for Aubergine salad”

Whilst Simon Costin (Set Designer and curator of The British Museum of Folklore ) opts for:
“UMUT 2000 Ocaksasi restaurant, for onions stewed in pomegranate juice”

Fashion designer Peter Jensen has a great tip for his favourite Turkish delicacy:
“I call it the one pound sandwich because that is how much it cost when we moved here 10 years ago. Its from Mangal on Stoke Newington High Street, I think it now costs £1.30. They also make the best chicken soup”

The Mangal on Arcola Street made famous by Gilbert & George’s lunchtime pilgrimages from Spitalfieds was the restaurant adjacent to my next “need to know” retreat. The Arcola Theatre has recently left its namesake home and relocated to Ashwin Street in the ground floor of the studio block inhabited by Gareth Pugh. This dogleg lane enclave is a cluster of cultural hideouts as discovered by acclaimed Canadian knitwear designer Mark Fast:
“Travelling on the trains at the Dalston junction Station is like being on a moving installation and seeing the back roads in a whole new perspective. I encourage this journey…….. also the old war bunker where they have art installations… it is quite an intruiging and claustrophobic experience”

In the same setting as the bunker and newly planted Arcola Theatre, resides Café Oto as recommended by Art Director Shona Heath. Next door to this is The Print House Gallery favourited by Simone Rocha for its recent Harry Malt exhibition. It would seem that if you search out these emerging spaces, chances are that you may also spot one of UK’s prevalent fashion talents on the same visit. This crossover of artists practising in proximity to cultural happenings is endemic of the populated neighbourhood particularly with case in point of Marios Schwab’s favourite club night at “Vogue”. The commandeered fabric shop (not the magazine!) is a venue to the most unabashed fun and uninhibited dressed revellers on a weekly basis with various themed nights. It just so happens that it came about from Lyall Hakaraia deciding to open the doors of his own eccentric parties for the public to join in. When Lyall isn’t sequining a corset for Paloma Faith upstairs, he is setting up the decks for NYC Downlow’s Dj’s downstairs. Since the inception of setting up this celebrated stellar schedule of tune spinners, Lyall also now curates an annual Fair:
“The Royal Dalslton Hotel is a temporary performance and art space that takes over my whole house. What’s great is that I get to work with incredible East End artists who turn a four story building in Dalston into an Art Hotel.”

If your scene is less Studio 54 and more CBJB’s, then head 5 minutes back down Arcola Street to one of the city’s most exciting new live gig venues “The Shacklewell Arms”. A formerly low-key local pub that had Easteners and football on the telly is now under new management from The Lock Tavern which has the street in roadblock with fix-wheel bike riding music buffs. Journalist Hanna Hanra had the launch for her music magazine “The Beat” there which gave me a shock to see Scottish womenswear designer Louise Gray in the DJ booth where I was once used to seeing reggae legend Rodigan.

However, the transfer of ownership has been sensitively sympathetic to its original surroundings without changing any of the interior’s quirky fixtures or fittings. The only radical shift is the sheer number of significant creatives attending the gigs for the new wave acts and relaxed atmosphere. One such patron being ex Oki’Ni John Skelton who set up concept store LN-CC in the basement of the near by studio block inhabited by Christopher Kane and Emma Cook. With a new gallery space unveiled in-store, it is now possible for you to check out an exhibition, buy a piece of exceptional unique design, pick up a vintage monograph and then cross the road for an album launch at The Shacklewell Arms.

For all these attractions and goings on, I have taken to calling Schaklewell Lane “Fashion Street” (in jest). It feels that since the demolition of the sidewalk at Centre Point, the new cross roads for bumping into a friend by chance, will almost certainly happen here!

(Thanks to all the designers who made time to give me quotes for the article. All images archive from my blog, except two from Shacklewell Arms by Anna Murray)


JACC said...

Just popping in Fred to say that I LOVE your blog! How much effort you put into it is inspiring. It was great seeing you at The W project dinner talk.



fredbutlerstyle said...

Thank you! It is a whole other job in addition to my regular one ........ so I appreciate the feedback! Its exhausting!!! But I love it!!