London in 2022. It has been a while since my last trip here. Since last time we’ve had Brexit and two years of lockdown because of pandemic. I decided to head to the British capital to check out how the city is doing. What is up London??
My trip to London was three days and two nights. I had really no assignments this time. No fairs, no activities. I just wanted to walk the streets and see how the city had changed.
I stayed in East London and used that as a base. And as expected this area is happening more and more. The whole of Shoreditch and Hackney is lively.
East London has become a walkable area with colourful street art.
Here a facade made by British artist Camille Walala
But just walking around here is fun.
Mandatory selfie in Hyde Park. I tried to cover as much of London as possible.
One of the things I had booked to visit was the new area called Design District. Here was an area of eventually 16 new buildings trying to attract the creative industry.
A small area with lots of buildings and constructions. I would say that this is not necessarily something for the design interested tourist but more for locals who work here. I talked to the people behind the project and they want companies from the gaming industry, product design, digital design industry etc to establish themselves here.
Will they? The concept opened fall 2021 so it is a bit early to say yet.
A central point is the coworking space of Bureau. It is a very nice office space and of course they try to be better then everyone else. They pride themselves with having a stronger network between people working in the building.
I thought the space was nice, but kind of expected. Nothing super innovative.
London is of course also art. I managed to visit a handful of places. And it is interesting to see how art is generating attraction. At Tate Modern they have several exhibitionns. For instance one on surrealism. Fully booked… And this. I just find it so interesting that an exhibition with Yayoi Kusama is fully booked for six months. Six months!!!
But Tate offer their permanent collection besides these temporary things. And it is of course lovely to just walk these rooms with amazing art.
Barbara Kruger’s political art.
But we need to talk about museum shops. Why have they gotten so bad???
Everything feels so cheap. And the piece with Kruger – why make a t-shirt of it?? Is that really necessary?
I mean, a lot of this art actually have a serious message. Like the Guerilla Girls. Isn’t it relevant to talk about who made this t-shirt? In New York I could buy air fresheners with the Guerilla Girls logo, and that is funny. How they sort of want to give us a bit of fake fresh air. But t-shirts and pens??
No, museum shops have not evolved during these three years.
I also visited V&A and their new fashion exhibition. Small and nice. Didn’t really learn anything or was really touched by something. Super boring museum shop.
The use of pink – then and now.
But London is of course also looking at retail. I had heard a rumour that the majority of contintental European brands have left London. Mainly because of Brexit. And the quick response to this is “yes”. I couldn’t even find a large brand like Iittala anywhere. I found two vases at Conran Shop but nothing else…
Picture above is from me trying to enter Harrods. But no… They don’t allow people with bags to enter the building. So, no Harrods.
I am not doing a thing about “death of retail”. Everyone knows it already. A lot of the classical flagship shops on Oxford Street were closed. But also in other areas. For a while I had my shopping route down in Kensington and Chelsea. Everything is closed. There is nothing there. Gallery Milk is closed. Kings Road is super boring.
One of the things I do when I travel is to talk to people. Also this time. I for instance had a nice conversation with a taxi driver. If design and fashion stores are closing – what is coming instead? The answer is “American candy”. Everywhere.
Ok. Trying to be on the more optimistic side. There are things happening in London. I did enjoy East London. Walking in Shoreditch and Brick Lane. I actually bought something…
The thing with multibrand stores now is that they basically trying to give you a reason to shop. Of course the brands themselves try to be more sustainable and better all the time – but the store itself also needs to have a reason for being. Why shop here – well, if you shop here you contribute to the local community. Or support a good cause like activism.
The store as a culture center.
By shopping local you will give your neightbourhood colour.
Contributing to a better world.
A better world. And repair.
Contributing to the LGBQT society.
And finally Selfridges. Sort of the main reason for my trip to London. And yes. Also Selfridges is changing their communication. They don’t strive to be the most fancy or luxurious department store in the world. They need to be something else. They need to stand for change.
They had a section in the department store about innovative products. I was not too impressed but it was kind of interesting. 3D printing for your Crocs. Not sure I want that…
3D printing in reused plastic. 49 pounds…?
Air Company was using carbondioxide to make perfumes. Pretty ok, but very small scale. I thought the projects shown at Printemps in Paris were much more interesting than this.
But what about the brands?? Were they all gone? Well not all. Large players like Alessi, Le Creuset, Serax and in the picture you see Diptyque. They were at Selfridges (and Conran Shop at Bibendum). But sooooooo many of the other contental European brands were gone.
So if brands are gone, what happens with the content of the store? Well if the Europeans are leaving it is evident that it is replaced with brands new to me. Like this above. An Australian brand called Dinosaur Designs.
Or this British Iraqi brand called By Walid.
And in general a much much more focus on British brands. Here Christopher Kane’s brand More Joy.
Let me be clear – the store is not empty. If Iittala is gone, then it has been replaced by a local or international brand from outside of EU.
Or table ware from super trendy Soho House (called Soho Home).
So London has stopped selling EU brands and focus on other things. This is good. I like that. All of a sudden window shopping and looking at things becomes interesting again.
This goes not only for Selfridges but also for Conran Shop. Here a brand from South Africa.
Or a designer collaboration like here between Conran Shop and Anya Hindmarch.
So, I would actually say shopping got really interesting.
One final note. Since I am a trendhunter I couldn’t stop to notice ALL stores promote the outdoors a lot. A lot!
It could be a cool designer shop in East London.
Or Dover Street Market.
Or at Selfrigdes or Conran Shop. It looks like we will be wearing rain ponchos and rubber boots this summer…