Easily the most anticipated retail destination - we can’t use ‘shopping centre’ anymore, can we?! - of the year, and the final piece of the huge Kings Cross jigsaw, Coal Drops Yard mirrors the life of the entire area. From industrial power to warehouse parties to sanitised private/public spaces, this could be a micro model of London as a whole over the last 100 years.
Now reimagined by Thomas Heatherwick, who has joined the two ‘Kit-Kat’ pieces with a sweeping roof which lightly touches across the divide. This was the kiss Kings Cross/St Pancras was waiting for and not that cringeworthy sculpture greeting you as you disembark off the Eurostar.
Opening today, with over 50 new stores, it’s currently only about 50% open, and the most stunning aspect, the Samsung store inside the roof, is far from finished.
Firstly, the architecture is great. What could have been clunky, the roof is elegant and sweeping. Reslated in the original Welsh tiles, Heatherwick works his magic and creates something modern yet respectful to the original. This is the human scaled, brick built industrial Britain that is a joy to bring back to life.
Situated just down from Granary Square and up from the main stations, Coal Drops Yard opens out into a generous V shape with two main levels of shops and restaurants. This feels like the type of retail space you want to give yourself time to explore.
There’s also another space on the other side of the main block called Lower Stable Street that is for smaller and start-up businesses. It has touches of the Southbank with the concrete.
There are a few restaurants - Barafina, Casa Pastor and wine bar The Drop, but it feels the mix is too heavy on the retail, today, especially with the need to drive traffic. People don’t need to go shopping anymore, but they do need to eat. You could easily use the space in the middle for market type concepts.
They’ve made an effort to have a mix of brands - COS, Paul Smith, Tom Dixon, Cubitts, Universal Works, Rains, Aesop, Maya Magal, Miller Harris and Le Chocolat and there are a few that are new to me.
You want to explore, but there’s no element of surprise. The retail mix is dry. It’s from the Monocle school of aching design, devoid of personality. This feels like stylish retail from 10 years ago. We’re in the age of Gucci, of bonkers, of wanting-to-get-my-phone-out-and-take-a-picture-mental, not a single one of the finished shop fits was worthy of an Instagram. Even Paul Smith has produced one of the most conservative shop fits I’ve ever seen from him. You’d think he would have tapped into the rave culture history of the site, especially when you consider so many of his more casual clothes would have been worn there.
This is for one type of design customer and I don’t think that’s as aspirational as they think. It’s also needs a destination store. There was lots of talk from the lease manager about going to Paris for inspiration. When didn’t they resurrect Colette here or try a Dover Street Market type concept. It needs a pilgrimage store, or whatever that is in 2018, to get people up from the stations.
I really think Coal Drops Yard has missed a trick by not tapping into the nostalgia for the area. Those clubbers are now in their 40s with money to spend and families to bring. There are exhibitions regarding the history in the Visitors Centre, back in Granary Square, but I would have done more on site to remind people of their happy times spent at The Cross or Bagley’s nightclubs.
As I said, it’s not fully finished and all these things will evolve. When listening to Thomas Heatherwick give his welcoming talk I thought about the reinvention of Covent Garden, which he then mentioned, and was a huge success, and then I thought about the early 90s, when they tried to turn a similar concept, Tobacco Dock, into a similar retail destination. It was the wrong location at the wrong time. This is in a better position, but like I said, they need enough people to know about it to want to walk up from the stations.
I think we’ll see more food outlets eventually and also they need something like a vintage market, similar to Spitalfields, to raise the element of discovery and keep you coming back.
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“With 'the modernist', I designed a fragrance that has that self-assured simplicity. Bergamot opens the parfum and leads the way to a oral centre. Freesia felt like the perfect choice in this journey from citrus to timber. I love the sweet and sharp sensation of freesia and the way it softens and radiates a cleanliness on the skin. This is cradled in the warm hands of frankincense. I wanted a dominant, distinguished base and its complexity is enriched with labdanum, timber and even fruit, creating an autograph for the wearer. I’m not a big fan of scents that arrive before you do and linger in the room after you’ve left. For sure, be powerful and be bold, but let them remember how you smell, not just the smell.” says John Evans, Fragrance Designer & Founder of the modernist fragrance.
Taking a break from corporate life, John worked full-time as a writer and has seven novels published. Following his re-entry into the world of finance, John lived and worked in the US and Australia for a number of years. He and Andrew, his partner, returned to the UK in 2008 where John was the Managing Director of a global business.
Leaving full time work at the end of 2014, and at Andrew's suggestion, John began formalising a lifelong passion for fine fragrance. Soon after, John authored the modernist manifesto and founded the house of modernist fragrance. Formulated in London and made in England, this is his first fragrance.
Left - The Modernist - 50ml - £145
TheChicGeek says, “It’s refreshing when somebody has put everything into a single fragrance. This feels like a labour of love and another welcome addition to the family of small British perfume producers. I’m not sure whether ‘the modernist’ is the name of the company or the fragrance or both. But, I really like it.
It has a cool, almost menthol, freshness at the top, with an element of turpentine. Then, a peppery layer which moves into spice and the comforting and intoxicating depth of the frankincense. It doesn’t dominate, but has a delicate richness, very much like John’s goal in the creation - see his quote above. The packaging reminds me of Miller Harris.”
Part of Miller Harris’ premium ‘Perfumer’s Library’ collection, Le Cèdre is the latest unisex addition. For the adventurer, it is a spicy tale of cedarwood and black orchid. It features top notes of pink and black pepper, a heart of black orchid and mimosa and, of course, the base of Texas cedarwood and musk.
TheChicGeek says, “I really like the top of this. The black pepper is raw yet clean. The black orchid isn’t the Tom Ford type, but something softer and more subtle all on the warm foundation of the cedar wood. The only issue is that the pepper quickly disappears and it would be nice for it resonate longer. I would say this is on the masculine side of the unisex fragrance spectrum”.
Left - Miller Harris - Le Cèdre - 100ml - £155
Available May 2017
True blue, TheChicGeek uses bold aquas and sky blues to create pops of colour on a clean and fresh base of white. Never one to blend into the background, TheChicGeek stands out amongst the background of brilliant white chalk by mixing the primary shades of blue. How big, how blue, how beautiful!
Get involved #WhiteOut
Credits - Shoes - Blue Sebago Docksides Ariaprene, White Jeans G-Star RAW, Bomber Jacket - Villain, Jean Jacket - GAP, Watch - Nixon, Bum-Bag - UTC100, Bag - UTC00, Shirt - Topman, Blue Neckerchief With Piping - Thomas Pink, Blue Neckerchief - John Lewis, Blue Fragrance - Marc Jacobs ‘Rain’, Fragrance - Miller Harris Étui Noir
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
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TheChicGeek was given the privilege of experiencing BMW’s new limited-edition MRPORTER.COM i3 electric car for his latest series of OOTD. Looking sleek in its navy/black colourway with white highlights, the new BMW i3 X MRPORTER.COM is the city car equivalent of a classic tuxedo.
TheChicGeek thought he’d take a spin around the city and take a first look at the latest crop of buildings springing up in London. Much like the new BMW i3, these buildings will become the future design icons of London.
ART - The first stop was Tate Modern’s new extension, opening this year, housing its video and performance art collection.
Get involved #FutureIcons #BMWi3
Credits - Suit - Acne Studios, Shirt - Paul Smith, Watch - Uniform Wares all from MRPORTER.COM Shoes - Russell & Bromley, Change Tray - Typo, Vetiver Insolent - Miller Harris, La Promeneuse Scented Cameos - Cire Trudon, Blanket (background) - Hackett
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
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