London. Four days in London is a great opportunity to catch up with the latest retail, exhibitions and food. I went there during summer 2019 and here is what’s happening.
As a trend scout it is important to go to cities and actually investigate and see what is hot and not so hot in various places. London is of course one of this places I need to see every now and then. For this trip I got some important help. First I contacted the biggest and most influential design blogger in the UK – Kate at Mad About the House. A lovelly and funny woman. She helped with some suggestions. The other person I contacted was Lennart at food and restaurant trend agency Food & Friends.
So with their suggestions and some research on my own I managed to get a list of important things to see and do for four days. And it looked something like this.
The Barbary, Neals Yard
Maltby Street Market
Cakes & Bubbles
The german gymnasium
Fortnum&Mason Bar, Royal Exchange
Coal drops yard
The shop at Bluebird
Aga Khan centre
Barbican, Lee KrasnerV&A, Food
Tate, Olafur Eliasson
I actually didn’t make everything on the list, but if you are more ambitious then me, use it as a reference.
For the trip I stayed at two different hotels. No need to mention names but at two different locations of the city. First stop was a hotel in eastern part of London and second stay right by Convent Garden. The latter hotel actually had one thing that really impressed me.
Every day they had a new collection of emenities. A unique selection per day. Fun.
Eastern parts of London is really more “street” than other areas like Mayfair. I do appreciate it.
Shoreditch with Brick Lane
But lets start talking about retail. I did check out most of the places on the list. And I must say I am not really impressed. It feels like retail here is stuck with one pattern. It is all about the classical concept store. Fancy Gucci, plates by Fornasetti and scented candles. Nothing new. Nothing at all. Everything feels dated and a bit old. Compare to my story from New York.
Picture above from Shop at Bluebird.
One of the places I really looked forward to see was the skatepark at Selfridges. This is extremely interesting. Selfridges is one of the poshest places on earth and all of a sudden they realise they need to do something to drive traffic to the deparment store. So at skatepark. Free of charge to use.
It is also interesting to read about this project and realise that kids today are willing to spend enormous amount of money on the “right” t-shirt (think Supreme, Off-White, etc).
Selfridges was a good experience.
One reflection from visiting a ton of stores was how we more and more look for things to help us get off the treadmill.
I want to talk a bit longer about two stores or retail projects. First one is Brown’s East. Brown’s is your typical concept store – but the new location in Shoreditch has a whole new energy. The store is full of your ordinary branded fashion. Balenciaga, Prada, Burberry…
What is new is that they have a room on the second floor where they change themes a few times per year. And it is supposed to be free, fun and festive. So, a yoga room, a perfume expert, a super small dragshow…
When I was there, they had made it into a super small London pub. And the concept was that we get this small pub for ourselves for 30 minutes. Free beer, free snacks, free everything…
Amazingly friendly staff and fantastic fun. I loved this – of course. Ten out of ten.
A new concept that opened late last year is Coal Drops Yard. Two minutes from the King’s Cross station. Absolutely talk of the town. And absolutely over rated.
It is a rebuild industrial area. But everything feels overcalculated. Like a landlord och construction company is just trying to make money of something.
Someone has read all the correct reports and seen what the massmarket wants and just added that. What is left out then is personality and authenticity. So here you are supposed to find smaller brand shops and not your H&M’s or Zara’s. But still… kind of the same things you see everywhere anyway.
It has, kind of, it’s own version of High Line that you see in New York.
The shopping space has new addition by Thomas Heatherwick.
Not totally convinced… I give this a three or a four out of ten. I realise that it sounds harsh but even if this space looks pretty ok, and it has some pretty ok stuff, it brings nothing new to the table. The skaterink at Selfridges or the pub at Brown’s was innovative and new – but not this.
But London is of course also about food and drinks.
At Coal Drops Yards you can try the concept bar of Vermuteria.
Also close to Coal Drops Yard is gorgeous old sports hall the German Gymnasium. Beautiful.
One of the best meals I have ever had in London (and possibly in a long long time) was at The Barbary. Serving North African and Middle Eastern food in meze style. Amazing.
I guess one of the new things with London is that you can’t make reservations any more so you need to go there and stand in line. But soooooo worth it.
And great Asian food at Smoking Goat.
But this is why you love London. You just find a place that looks nice and just chill out with a beer. I did want to see a few more places but we got stuck in the way.
A semi classical restaurant in Shoreditch – St John. Stripped down to a minimalistic style but amazing new take on British food.
And don’t miss breakfast at Balthazar.
Last year I attended something for the first time – Secret Cinema. This is such a strange and amazing experience. I guess it is easiest if you google it, but in short it means that a team builds a setting and recreate a movie. Last year was 90s movie with Leonardo DiCapri “Romeo & Juliet” and this time it was James Bond and Casino Royal. I am trying to look like a Russian counter intelligence.
So in an abandoned warehouse the built a copy of Venice, London and a piece of Uganda and hundreds or thousands of people participate. And no cameras.
This is where everyone hands on their phones. I can totally recommend this.
During our four days of eating and looking at retails we did have time for some culture. No pictures but we actually passed by Whitechapel Gallery that showed Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz. And I wish we would have time for Tate and Somerset House, but I guess, next time…
It had been a while since I stopped by Barbican Centre. This summer they have an amazing exhibition about Lee Krasner and a fun exhibition about artificial intelligence.
Lee Krasner is a female American artist. She was married to Jackson Pollock but outlived him many years. The exhibition was excellent and educational. Krasner was a colourist and you can see the link to Pollock.
Victoria & Albert had an exhibition on food and design. And it is interesting to see how the two of us reacted so differently to this exhibition. I loved it. Give is a nine out of ten. But Peter hated it. I felt educated and he felt that a lot of the information was too “in your face”.
The exhibition obviously talks about food but from four different angles. Interestingly enough, it starts with waste and composting, discussing out relationship to waste materials and how to handle waste.
I really appreciated the historical context. The museum had parts of waste experiments that had been done over the years.
There were of course new waste materials that is seen all over the world. Here are corn parquet that I also saw at Cooper Hewitt in May at the exhibition Nature.
Again, I did really like the historial context. Here museum pieces on how we have shaped new farm animals.
And how it all started… Originally we bought food at markets. When we started shipping food we needed something to protect it. Enter packaging. And when we have packaging we have an opportunity to start building brands and marketing.
And who remembers the sheet of paper around the orange? That is an example of how it all started.
But the exhibition also contain interesting design solutions like how we now can pollinate flowers by hand. Of course we should have bees and butterflies, but there are innovations.
Or how you with an app can totally trace your food via crypto technology. Did you know that a banana travels 14 days and pass 33 pairs of hands?
Freight boats that go fully packed from China to USA, but almost empty on their return trip… Why not grow things?
Or packaging that disolves in water.
There was one (unnecessary in my opinion) interactive station. You get to pick a handful of values associated to how you want your food. Vegan, affordable, sustainable, zero waste, tasty… And then they make your perfect bite. How it tasted? Can’t remember…
And of course exit through the gift shop.
London is great. Look forward to four more days next year, if not sooner.
What a perfect guide. Thanks!