Meet the neighbourhood: Shoreditch

Ever since we opened our Calvert Avenue store in the heart of Shoreditch, East London, we've just loved the positive community vibe around there. It's a vibrant area of London, full of diversity and dichotomies. Flower markets vie with financial centres while Michelin-starred restaurants sit cheek by jowl with corner stores. It has changed a lot since we first opened our doors, with new faces and friends entering the community and bringing new creativity and ideas to the retail and social environment.

The Boundary Estate at Arnold Circus

The history of the area, particularly around nearby Arnold Circus is fascinating. Originally, it was a garden space for the Holywell Nunnery but by the 18th century and with the East End’s population swelling, the area was developed for much-needed housing, although that didn't go all that well. By the 1850s, the area wedged between Boundary Street, Old Nichol Street, Mount Street and Virginia Road was known as 'Old Nichol', the worst slum in London mostly populated by "loafers, criminals and semi-criminals according to Charles Booth's poverty map of London. One reporter for the Ilustrated London News didn't mince his words in 1863:

“The limits of a single article would be insufficient to give any detailed description of even a day’s visit. There is nothing picturesque about such misery. It is but one painful and monotonous round of vice, filth and poverty, huddled in dark cellars, ruined garrets, bare and blackened rooms, reeking with disease and death, and without means, even if there were the inclination for the mot ordinary observations of decency and cleanliness.”

Thankfully, it's had a bit of a facelift since then! The slum was cleared at the turn of the 20th century and in its place was built the Boundary Estate, one of the first ever social housing projects (it only housed the 'industrious poor' however - the 'idle poor' were kicked on down to Dalston!). Remarkably, the architect of the project was only 23 years old at the time.

Syd and the icons of Calvert Avenue

One of the great icons of Calvert Avenue, apart from the Oli Spencer store of course, was Syd's coffee stall which closed down in 2020 but was donated to the Museum of London where it will be on display from 2024 onwards. Syd was Sydney Edward Tothill and he set up the stall in 1919. With money from his First World War soldier's disability pension he commissioned a coachbuilder to construct him a carriage in mahogany with etched-glass windows and brass fittings. Apparently he sold Camp Coffee, tea, cocoa and Bovex but he was known East London-wide for his "sav and a slice", which we are informed is a saveloy sausage (sourced from Wilsons German butchers in Hoxton), sliced bread and mustard. The ever-industrious Syd powered his stall by tapping a nearby lamppost.

The modern icons of Shoreditch

Of the modern icons of Calvert Avenue, we'd be remiss not to give a mention to Ainsworth Broughton, a fantastic upholsterer working out of No.14. The area used to have a flourishing furniture industry, which has all but disappeared. All but Ainsworth that is! He specialises in traditional upholstery so if you ever need to give some furniture a facelift, you know where to go.

We wanted to give you a taste of our favourite hangouts around the Calvert Avenue store, so we took model Ritchie Foster for a spin in our Autumn '21 collection, dropping by three of our regular haunts. Next time you're in the area, drop by and say hello!

Shop Cuvée

FINSBURY JACKET PENTON CORD MIDNIGHT

FINSBURY JACKET
PENTON CORD MIDNIGHT

DOCK POPOVER SHIRT STEIN RUST

DOCK POPOVER
SHIRT STEIN RUST

FISHTAIL TROUSERS PENTON CORD MIDNIGHT

FISHTAIL TROUSERS PENTON
CORD MIDNIGHT

In their own words, "Shop Cuvée was born out of necessity, with an utterly desperate situation facing bars and restaurants across the country." Unable to source good wine during lockdown, founders Max and Brodie gave birth to the idea of a delivery service and since then have opened 2 physical shops, a new wine bar and continue to distribute thousands of packages all around the UK. Go downstairs at their Bethnal Green Road store and you'll find Cave Cuvée, a cheeky wine bar where you can sample some of their well-sourced delights. They specialise in natural wine, bio-dynamic wine, organic Wine, natty wine, raw wine, low-Intervention wine, and orange wine so if you're a newbie to that particular pocket of booze then definitely hit them up because their knowledge is all-seeing!

Jolene

BLENHEIM JUMPER CAREW TURQUOISE

BLENHEIM JUMPER
CAREW TURQUOISE

MORWELL JOGGERS HARRIS WASHED BLACK

MORWELL JOGGERS
HARRIS WASHED BLACK

SOANE SCARF KINTYRE MULTI

SOANE SCARF
KINTYRE MULTI

On paper, Jolene is a bakery and restaurant at 21 Newington Green but it's so much more than that! They bake through the night to ensure in-the-know East Londoners get their breakfast delicacies still warm and perfectly fresh, while the restaurant is a foodie's delight. With stripped-back decor (think industrial minimalism and you're in the right neighbourhood) and warm lighting, the restaurant is a cosy gem (date night anyone?) replete with a stunning and ever-changing menu, on the likes of which you'll find hyper-seasonal dishes. It also has an all-natural wine list so if you're quaffing the trend, then it's well worth a visit on all fronts.

Leila's

GRANDPA COAT CLEVELAND SAND

GRANDPA COAT
CLEVELAND SAND

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN HARRIS TEAL GREEN

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN
HARRIS TEAL GREEN

DRAWSTRING TROUSERS RHODES BLACK

DRAWSTRING TROUSERS
RHODES BLACK

Just down the road on Calvert Avenue, Leila's - founded by Leila McAlister - is a Shoreditch foodie institution. It must be around 22 years old by our counting and comprises a cafe and shop, although 'shop' doesn't do it justice - more of an emporium of fine foods and things that make you go 'hmmmmmmmm'. Leila has basically curated the best of just about everything from artisan producers all over the world so if you're ever cooking something special, you'd be well-served picking up ingredients from Leila.

Shop the Shoreditch Lookbook here

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