diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 29, 2017

Have you been to Hackney Walk? Hackney Walk is London's first luxury designer fashion outlet, a prestigious "off price opportunity" recently installed in Hackney's Morning Lane. Don't look so surprised. The Burberry Factory Shop has been located round the corner in Chatham Place for well over a decade, should cut price plaid jackets and clutch bags be your thing, so opening Hackney Walk here last September seemed an obvious extension.

Just 8 minutes on foot from the Overground, or an Uber safari from elsewhere, Hackney Walk is essentially a run of rabbit holes underneath a railway viaduct, dressed up and made shiny with a plate glass facade. Previously these arches would have housed mechanics fixing exhausts and repairing engines, but now they contain luxury branded leftovers, and vehicles are tinkered with elsewhere.

Brands firmly ensconced in the E9 line up include Columbo, Folli Follie and Matchesfashion.com, plus everyone's favourite clompy boot producer Ugg. Racks of dresses and faceless mannequins stare out towards the salted steps, the bright lights within revealing assistants poised to offer excellent customer service should any customers walk in.

I did spot clientele picking over various boxes of shoes, in one store at least, which confirmed that much exciting trading is going on. At another unit's door a groomed gentleman in a smart suit eyed me carefully as I passed, perhaps poised to welcome me should I step inside, or perhaps relieved that someone with insufficient fashion sense stayed well outside. Chinese visitors are more welcome and more extravagant, hence most shops employ someone who speaks Mandarin for when the crowds turn up.

Two new buildings have been erected to complement the viaduct arcade, jammed in like glitzy bookends beside the pavement. The larger of the two has been allocated to Nike, whose giant red swoosh is visible from the council houses down the street, and whose goods are popular with trainer wearers across the borough. The other unit is still empty and To Let, as are the three arches at the end of the row, and might be of interest to any world class brand seeking representation in the East London Fashion Cluster.

And that's not all. Across the road a number of existing buildings have been appropriated for on-trend usage, a practice which involves painting the exterior a classy shade of black. One of these is Aquascutum, for heaven's sake, and another is Pringle of Scotland, which aren't names I ever expected to see a few yards down the road from Hackney's big Tesco.

The prime corner slot has gone to Anya Hindmarch, and I think I can confidently say that if you don't know who or what she is, then Hackney Walk probably isn't for you. The envelope of the overall site also includes a small teashop called Brew For Two, because shopping for designer handbags is thirsty work, and because the new outlet needs to claim it includes a refreshment opportunity.

Publicity for the site confirms it has ambitions to extend to approximately the same size as Bicester Village, and to lure shoppers who might otherwise have travelled there to Hackney instead. It's no competition at present, the Oxfordshire outlet easily trouncing this fledgling inner city upstart. But if conceptual lifestyle aspiration is your thing, and a rummage through Burberry's castoffs appeals, add Hackney Walk to your retail destination portfolio.

Disclaimer: This post has been written after a two minute visit to Hackney Walk, during which time I didn't actually enter any of the shops. Still, that's probably two minutes more on-the-spot research than most other websites would have given it.

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