Kentish Town is mourning the loss of the loveliest and most distinctive feature of its high street. The steadfastly old-fashioned Blustons clothing shop today closes its doors forever, after occupying its site in Kentish Town Road since 1931. Their fashions changed little over the years so the customers stayed loyal, but that came at a cost. As owner Michael Albert points out, what began as ‘classic ladies’ wear’ gradually turned into ‘classic older ladies’ wear’.
So much history is getting blown away with the closing. First of all there’s Mr Albert’s personal history, as he has worked here since leaving school at the age of 16. It’s also part of the history of fashion, as places like Blustons can have little future in the age of Primark and American Apparel. (Vogue implicitly acknowledged this when it shot a fashion feature at the shop a few years ago.)
But for the community, it’s the history of the high street that gets hollowed out. Probably no Kentish Towner can remember Kentish Town Road without Blustons. Many of us, myself included, feel bereft when we walk by and don’t see the famous red-spotted dress in the front of their window.
The good news is that the shop front – windows and signage – is Grade II-listed. It’s just a question of what replaces the dresses. There’s talk of a showcase for artists, or for fashion designers. A local estate agent/coffee bar owner is interested. Let’s hope something goes in there soon. It’ll never replace Blustons, the palace of high fashion in NW5, but then again nothing ever could.
By Richard Ehrlich
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