Hackney may be home to the lion’s share of the capital’s stylists and fashion designers, but retail hub? Hell no. Not unless you count the 70 betting shops, that is. But all this is set to change with the unveiling of plans for Hackney Fashion Hub – a new development that proposes to turn a portion of land off Morning Lane into a shopping mall of impressive scale.
The snazzily named Manhattan Loft Corporation have already capitalised on footfall to the hugely popular Burberry Outlet store by renting neighbouring property out to Aquascutum and Pringle (with the latter staging a dramatic make-over of a sports pub into a sales boutique), and now they’ve revealed much grander plans for a 6,250 square metre mall opposite and next to the Burberry premises.
It will house discount outlets for designer brands, workshops and pop-up spaces where up-and-coming local designers can showcase and sell their products. Or that’s the current plan, at least. MLC don’t dismiss outright the idea of letting chain stores like Topshop or Whistles use space, but that won’t be the focus. According to Harry Handelsman CEO of MLC the point is rather to “include leading fashion names alongside start-ups”.
It has to be said that the Manhattan Loft Corporation have good taste – they are the developers behind the fabulous St Pancras hotel and apartments – and the project is an ambitious one, which will also see TfL’s railway tunnels along Morning Lane converted into retail units and studios; a development which is already underway.
The site, if approved, will not open doors til 2016 when there will be six floors of outlet stores and pop-up shops for the Hackney masses. Harry points out that those who might not want or be able to shop here can benefit from getting a job at the many new shops and cafes proposed, citing the example of Phillip Harrison (below), one of 24 to get employment at Aquascutum through the organisation’s partnership with Hackney’s Ways Into Work. The 22-year-old is happy to speak up on the subject: “I was on jobseekers’ allowance and had been in receipt of benefit for three years. I was very disheartened in most aspects of my life. I had lost all of my ambition, and then through Ways into Work, I found a full time job with a high-end fashion retailer which is near my home… I have my general hunger back to achieve things in life”.
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