diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 04, 2011

Boxpark Shoreditch: It is, allegedly, the world's first temporary shopping mall. That's probably only bluster, depending on your definition of "temporary" and "shopping mall". But there is nothing else quite like it in East London. Trendy shops around Shoreditch, sure, several. Buildings made out of empty shipping containers, sure, several. But the two things combined, nah, unique. Imagine about 40 shipping containers painted black, lined up in parallel. Stick glass doors in one end, facing Bethnal Green Road, and fill with lifestyle brands aimed at hip Silicon City yoofsters. Then add two dozen additional containers on the roof, aligned perpendicularly, with a central alleyway and intermediate grazing spaces. Leave to simmer until the first weekend in December, then open with a rooftop party. That's Boxpark for you. It's located alongside the new Shoreditch High Street station, on a patch of land that's earmarked for building development but not yet. So Boxpark will be here for about five years, and then it can move somewhere else because it's cunningly adaptable like that. The shops are rather thin, but a lot of clothes-style boutiques work quite well on the narrow side. Picture one long wall, maybe two, covered in stuff, and a couple of natty assistants hovering near a till in case someone wants to buy something. DC Shoes are here, and Nike, and Oakley, and Calvin Klein, and Original Penguin, and you get the idea. Farah slacks and Gola shoulder bags have a presence, because this is Shoreditch and the 1970s are retro-trendy again. Local coffee chain Foxcroft & Ginger are here, and they've sensibly taken two neighbouring containers so their dispensing space isn't ridiculously confined. Various food outlets have slipped in, should you fancy Mexican, organic or meat pies. And Amnesty International and "Art Against Knives" have been given boxes, in an attempt to make the whole enterprise no quite so nakedly commercial. I accidentally stumbled on the place a few minutes after opening, and it was rammed. All those Shoreditch characters you thought were stereotypes, they came in large numbers. Bobble hats, flat caps, primary-coloured jeans and trainers, individually stretched earlobes, the lot. They came, they saw, they clustered. In fact you could probably draw rather a convincing "bar graph of cool" according to how large the crowds were outside each individual doorway. Some outlets remained noticeably less desirable, and box number 13 stayed firmly closed because nobody's risked renting it yet. I ventured inside the Dockers container because I need some new trousers for work, only to find a fairly limited range stashed in piles along the right-hand wall. Nicely done, but no sign of the style I was after, plus I wouldn't have fancied changing behind the curtain at the back anyway. I was more interested in Cybercandy upstairs, except they didn't have the right obscure flavour of imported tictacs, and I didn't fancy a Ploppy. Not all of the top floor was accessible, alas, because the opening party was underway. Only those who passed guest list interrogation were allowed through to the soundstage-and-drinks area, and the rest of us had to mill around and along and back down the way we'd come. Were I younger, beardier and more retail-minded, I might well be tempted back for a wardrobe top-up, but I can absolutely live without, thanks very much. I have my doubts how popular Boxpark will be on Wednesday afternoons in February, but its densely-packed low-rent stockpile of must-have brands surely gives traders every chance of success. [photo] [53 photos]

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