Exploring East London

From Leather Lane to Lower Clapton, nowhere else in London has undergone such a dramatic regeneration in previous years. The longstanding creative community that calls East London home, coupled with the area’s colourful past has given this part of town its unique character. Now many of those creative locals have set up shop to help keep the independent spirit of East London alive.

You certainly won’t find many chain retailers here, as East Londoners are characteristically protective of preserving their independence. Instead, you’ll find unique coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques in refreshing abundance, often sourcing much of their product from local suppliers.

Under the scorching sun of the hottest day of the year, we journeyed East to explore some of the area’s best independent boutiques.

Triangle Store

Originally housed in the space that A New Tribe now occupies, Triangle Store has grown to a two-storey boutique, stocking a collection of fashion, homewares and art. Triangle is based around the principle that if it’s in the shop, it’s almost guaranteed to be in at least one of the three founders’ homes. Filling the space with vintage furniture means the look and feel of the boutique is always evolving, with each new piece complementing its surroundings as well as the last.

Shop assistant arranging objects in an independent shop
Triangle’s shop assistant and resident artist, Alicia Galer

Tell us a bit about yourselves and the background of your boutique

There are three of us in the immediate Triangle family, Mary, Tory and Matt (hence the name Triangle). All three of us have a background in design and have been friends for a very long time, all living in Clapton for over ten years.

Our shared passion of mid-century furniture and homewares was the inspiration behind Triangle and we had talked for years about opening a shop full of things we loved. When a premises became available on Chatsworth Road, our much loved high street, we jumped at the chance. We opened 4 years ago with a collection of pieces from our own homes and our fingers crossed that we would make enough to pay the first month’s rent. Over the years the store has grown to include collections from independent designers, established brands and vintage pieces sourced from all over Europe. Triangle today looks completely different to the Triangle that opened 4 years ago but the passion and philosophy is still exactly the same.

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Stocked shelves at Triangle

What inspires you?

The three of us have definitely got some shared design heroes, and over the years we’ve made pilgrimages to Denmark, Holland and California to visit stunning mid-century architecture and see classic design pieces by some of our most loved designers. Closer to home, Hackney itself is an inspiring place to live. We are surrounded by an incredibly creative community and a host of independent stores and businesses. It’s tough being a small business and we are inspired by other people like us who are trying to create a unique and special something.

What do you predict for the future of retail?

We would hope that even though the internet remains an essential area of retail growth people will still continue to support their independent stores on their local high streets. The actual bricks-and-mortar shops, that in our case is a carefully curated home from home, are so important to allow us to talk to our customers and provide a personal shopping experience. Trouva is a bridge between these two worlds and it’s amazing to be part of something so innovative.

In store displays at Triangle
In store displays at Triangle

What is the best thing about your boutique?

The best thing about Triangle is that it represents a very personal passion for simple, useful and beautiful design. Our collections include fashion, homewares, accessories, apothecary and art, and for things to make it into the store all three of us have to love them. We also have a much loved extended Triangle team, including fantastic store staff and hardworking partners who do all sorts of magic behind the scenes – we would be lost without them.

Why East London?

We have a fierce loyalty to East London as we’ve always lived here, in different areas but always East. The food, the people, the different energies that each area has as well as the stunning green spaces. We feel like we’ve got the best of everything here.

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Triangle’s apothecary collection

Kate Sheridan

A local resident for over 20 years, Kate Sheridan is well and truly an East End native. A graduate in accessory design, Sheridan has been involved in retail in various ways since graduating, eventually specialising in quality leather goods. The solo Kate Sheridan label developed from a mainly online platform, with products sold in boutiques and on her popular Broadway Market stalls, until demand led them to consider a permanent retail space. Now with a design studio in store, Kate Sheridan stocks her own womenswear and accessories line alongside local talent and established designers.

Kate on the right with her shop assistant Ida
Kate on the right with her shop assistant Ida

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your boutique.

I studied footwear and accessory design at East London’s Cordwainers in the late 90s and after graduating I initially worked for Patrick Cox, a renowned fashion designer specialising in shoes and leather goods and then with Johnny Moke who was a celebrity footwear designer. My first company, Sheridan & Minns, was established with friend and illustrator Helen Minns and specialised in printed leather goods.

This slowly evolved into the solo Kate Sheridan label it is today. Before opening the store, we were based in a studio and mainly sold online, in selected boutiques and through markets and pop-up events. Coming from a family of shop owners, it was always in the back of my head that one day that was a possibility for me as well. After seeing the perfect spot in Clapton, it was time to plant roots with the boutique evolving to stock products from friends, locals and other inspiring designers to sit alongside my own collection.

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Hanging planters designed by Kate Sheridan

Who inspires you?

My friends and family are my greatest inspiration. East London is also endlessly inspiring, with the abundance of creatives and interesting characters everywhere. I love going to exhibitions – the most recent was the Jessica Warboys at the Tate in St Ives which had amazing large scale paintings literally created by the sea itself.

What do you predict for the future of retail?

There seems to be a real wave of people who prefer shopping independent, rather than on the high street. I think this will only continue to grow as consumers are made more aware of the benefits of quality materials and UK manufacturing, as well as the joy of wearing something made with real dedication.

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Splatterware homewares

What is the best thing about your boutique?

We have our design and making studio right here in the store, so anyone walking in can see us in the process or creating something. In addition to our own designs we also stock products from a variety of local craftsmen, small independent companies and plenty of our talented friends. Any product we stock is top quality, has an interesting story and has been lovingly crafted.

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A rainbow of leather accessories

Why East London? What do you love about it?

I’ve lived in the area for around 20 years so when we decided to open the store it was the only choice. My brand has always had its design roots firmly planted in Hackney and there is something so special about the acceptance of creativity and appreciation of craft and quality.

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Shop Kate Sheridan on Trouva

A New Tribe

Located on Chatsworth Road, A New Tribe opened a year ago as an expansion from founder Ella Jones’ brand ‘The Rug Trade’, where she sourced and designed Moroccan rugs for markets and pop-up shops. As well as stocking the rugs under her original brand name, A New Tribe also boasts a collection of unusual homeware products from artists, designers and local talent.

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The shopkeeper, Ella

Tell us a bit about yourself and the background of your boutique.

My background is in fashion design, having worked in the industry full time since 2006 and as a freelance designer since 2014. I decided to go freelance to give me more time and flexibility to pursue other projects.

I created a pop-up shop in 2015, sourcing products that I wanted to sit alongside the rugs from my existing brand. It went really well and the curation was something I particularly enjoyed doing, so I started looking to do more pop-ups when I came across this space on Chatsworth Road. I felt that having a bricks-and-mortar shop is especially important for my rugs, as it allows customers to touch and see them in real life, to get a true sense of proportion, fabric and colour.

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Ella in her shop, A New Tribe

Who inspires you?

I’ve always been inspired by people who take a bit of a risk to create a business out of something they feel passionate about. I also find working with people in Morocco inspiring – they are always so positive and have shown me that a little faith in humanity can go a long way.

What do you predict for the future of retail?

I think independent boutiques are really important to the future of retail. Whilst things are very much moving towards the convenience of shopping online, people still like to go out to physical shops and discover something a bit different.

What is the best thing about your boutique?

I currently have beautiful windows that have been painted by artist Damien Poulain, who used to live around the corner but is now based in Paris. It’s a temporary feature but I’ll find it really hard to take down. Also probably Peggy, my dog, who is there with me during the week. I’m sure people often come in just to see her!

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A corner of A New Tribe

Why East London?

I love having a shop on Chatsworth Road, I feel like it’s one of the few independent shopping streets left. It has a real mix of people and community feel, as well as other great independent shops. East London is endlessly creative and has a talent for producing and nurturing talented designers, makers and artists, many of whom I work with. I feel very lucky to be so close to all of this.

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Shop A New Tribe on Trouva

Idioma X Cuemars

A sublime blend of “lights, leaves & languages” (as emblazoned on their shop window) Idioma X Cuemars presents ethical clothing brand Idioma alongside lifestyle and lighting brand, Cuemars. Both were born in the markets of Brick Lane, where owners Seth, Charlotte and Amir developed a friendship through sharing ideas and trader tips from previous business ventures. Hailing from the UK, France and Persia respectively, the concept was to create a multi-cultural space combining their passions for sustainable product, understated design and nature.

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Lights, leaves, languages

Tell us a bit about the background of your boutique.

Charlotte: Myself and Amir graduated in business administration and always shared a passion for design, starting our lighting company Cuemars in April 2014. In early 2016, we decided it was time for a refresh to include a lifestyle collection. We wanted to create a brand that combined our love of contemporary homewares and design with our passion for nature. We collaborated with Idioma on the boutique as we have the same values in creating a business around ethical, natural product.
Seth: Our aim with Idioma was to enhance the beauty of language and portray this through interesting design. Our clothing line looks at interesting words and phrases from world languages, and transfers these into visual concepts using design and illustration. Everything we create has a connection to nature, so selling our clothes amongst exotic green leaves makes for a perfect combination and one that I think really represents who we are as a brand.

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A corner of Idioma x Cuemars

What inspires you?

Charlotte: Unsurprisingly, we are mainly inspired by nature. Everything around us from pattern to colour is so inspiring and has such endless combinations. We try and reflect this is our brand and in the products we create.
Seth: I find inspiration from all around the world, the different mix of people and cultures and the natural beauty in the planet itself.

What do you predict for the future of retail?

Charlotte: People are starting to show more interest in the production process of products they buy, as well as sustainability and where they come from. I think this will only grow as people turn to independent retailers to provide these types of products, making the link between the maker and the buyer much stronger.

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Idioma x Cuemars on Hackney Road

What’s the best thing about your boutique?

Charlotte: I think the best thing about our boutique is that we make a conscious effort to provide an ethical and culturally relevant shopping experience, using natural and sustainable materials. We keep the shop itself full of plants to provide a fresh and green sanctuary away from people’s busy daily lives. We also like to bring together local creatives, often organising workshops for customers and friends to learn new skills and share experiences.
Seth: We aim to challenge, inspire and encourage the idea of creative multiculturalism. I think our boutique really represents that and has such great energy and cohesion.

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Charlotte, one of the founders of Idioma x Cuemars

Why East London? What do you love about it?

Charlotte: We love the vibe of creativity and community in East London, we have definitely found home here. It is full of unique independent shops where we can find original pieces, vintage fashion and handmade products right on our doorstep. Even walking around the streets is never boring, with an abundance of street art, food and local markets providing places to socialise.

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Shop Idioma x Cuemars on Trouva

 

The Idle Man

Starting life as an online brand designed to help men to dress, look and feel better, The Idle Man first opened its doors as a bricks-and-mortar shop in October 2016. Disillusioned by the high street options available for men, founders Alex Outlaw and Oliver Tezcan set out to create a destination that champions style over fashion, offering guidance, style tips and inspiration. With an expert team dedicated to providing advice and service, The Idle Man is home to their own line of clothing and accessories alongside big name brands such as YMC and Redwing.

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Contemporary menswear at The Idle Man

Tell us a bit about yourselves and the background of your boutique

We launched The Idle Man about 3 years ago. Alex had been working in the menswear content arena during the heyday of the big lads mags; Loaded, FHM, Zoo and Nuts, learning and understanding what they wanted and how they used online to get it. The style sections were only increasing in popularity yet we still felt that there wasn’t a decent brand that really delivered to this growing demand. We were in our early 30s and had outgrown normal menswear high street brands and hated having to wade through thousands of products on other online giants. That was how the idea for The Idle Man was born.

The natural progression from the website was to create a physical embodiment of our brand with our first shop. It’s a place where customers can actually feel and try on the products whilst being guided by our in-house stylists on what suits their build and size.

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Homewares and accessories on display

Who inspires you?

It has to be Elon Musk (business magnate and inventor). He is like a real-life superhero.

What is the best thing about your boutique?

The staff. We have a great team who can offer expert advice on a carefully curated edit of brands in an environment that is comfortable and welcoming. Our own label brand is a big focus for us this year as well. Our summer collection features staple tees, vests, shorts and chinos with on-trend colourways and fittings – recognising the move to wider legs and brighter colour palettes. We are always keeping a close eye on upcoming trends whilst ensuring we cater for style, not just fashion.

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Neutral colours and contemporary clothing

Why East London? What do you love about it?

Clerkenwell is such a great area and Leather Lane in particular with all the food vendors. The area has such a great energy and is going through a big change with Crossrail and the improvements at Farringdon station.

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Shop The Idle Man on Trouva

 

Darling & Gold

Based in an old East End pie and mash shop, Darling & Gold is now a lifestyle, fashion and accessories boutique offering Scandi design with an English edge. Founded by Holly Drew, the mission was to create an independent department store, where customers can browse and discover everything under one roof (in this case, a stunning and original glass ceiling).

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Store manager, Marketa in the shop

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I moved to Chatsworth Road about six years ago. I loved the street and had always loved the idea of owning a shop here. My parents have always had shops and my brother is also a shopkeeper in Hackney, so you could say it was inevitable. I’d worked (and still do) as an actress, graduating from RADA in 2007. After I had my daughter I needed to be at home more but I still had the drive to work and be creative, so when the opportunity for the shop came up, I had to go for it.

Where did the idea behind the boutique come from?

We sell a lot of Scandinavian brands but I wanted a space that felt more homely and in keeping with the building and its East London location. We are friendly and warm, providing a welcoming environment to shop our products.

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Homewares on display at Darling & Gold

Who inspires you?

My parents and my step-father are really inspiring to me, they are such hard workers. They always put full effort into everything they do and they’ve always encouraged us to work hard, be kind and move on and upwards from mistakes. Also my husband is very cool, he always manages to land on his feet which takes a lot of skill.

What is the best thing about your boutique?

Marketa our store manger – she’s kind, hard working and cool in a crisis. I’ve always wanted to offer something for everyone and I feel that our boutique offers both products and brands I really believe in and she totally embodies this vision.

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The boutique is home to Scandi and British fashion

What do you love about East London and Lower Clapton?

Honestly, everything. The people, the independent business, the variety of artistic places and most recently the growth. I’m so excited to see the changes in this area. Change frightens some people but there can be such great things in change.

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Shop Darling & Gold on Trouva

Discover and shop from even more independent boutiques in East London.

Ruby Hall

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