World’s first pop-up mall: London’s Boxpark

pop-up mall

Millions of us will head to the mall this week to return gifts or buy what we really wanted from the after-Christmas sales. Chain stores, fast food courts, and packed parking lots are what most of us associate with shopping malls, but a new retail concept in hip East London is looking to change that. Boxpark is the world’s first pop-up mall, made out of 60+ shipping containers that house a mix of international labels like The North Face and Levi’s, UK designers Luke and Boxfresh, plus cafes and eateries such as Pieminister. Boxpark will be open for five years, and stores may change after a year or two. Befitting the Shoreditch neighborhood, don’t expect Claire’s Accessories or the Gap, but rather street fashion, cool sneakers, and funky concept stores and art galleries Art Against Knives and Marimekko. Already a huge trend with restaurants, one-off shops, and hotels, the flexibility of the pop-up concept means an urban (or anywhere, since the containers can be moved!) location, up-and-coming designers, and more creative retail spaces.

Check out all the retailers at plus info on sales and special offers.

Cool shop alert: Eurostyle Your Life, Seattle

There is an ongoing lifestyle shift at play in the US and beyond. This shift is all about favoring clothes and household objects from sources that rely on sustainable practices, recycled materials, and small production batches. I wrote back in September about a number of shops in Sydney that have followed this general impulse along quite divergent aesthetic lines.

Seattle’s Eurostyle Your Life is part of this global trend, with an eclectic product base focused somewhat on European small-scale designers. Eurostyle Your Life’s inventory includes clothes, bags, jewelry, children’s toys, greetings cards, and various decorative objects for the home.

One tried-and-true favorite at Eurostyle Your Life is its selection of remarkably elegant shoulder bags crafted out of inner tubes by Amsterdam-based designer Doreen Westphal. Another beautiful standby is a set of notebooks by Andrea Kohler, a Swiss bookbinder resident in Seattle.

Newer objects of note include jewelry made out of recycled silver and pewter by Potluck Paris, washable Pappelina rugs (made out of discarded plastic) from Sweden, Tyvek coats by New York’s Mau, leather bags by an Argentine designer named Guadalupe Martiarena, and “Frizzle Sizzles,” wildly colorful and very attractive children’s miniature play stove tops made out of reclaimed tins by the dynamic Switzerland-based rafinesse & tristesse.

The shop’s current location opened in summer 2009; from that point through this past summer, Eurostyle Your Life operated at two locations. The prior venue, in Seattle’s Fremont district, opened its doors in April 2008. The current location benefits from the next-door wood workshop, which is actually owned by the store’s proprietors, Leslie Conti and Urs Berger. The workshop churns out a steady stream of high-quality children’s wooden toys for the store.

The resulting product base is a mash-up of craftsy wooden objects and very modern, very sustainable reclaimed and recrafted goods. The latter impulse is nicely summed up by the tagline of Mau, one of EYL’s suppliers: “post industrial folk wear.”

Eurostyle Your Life is located at 2008 Westlake Avenue in Seattle’s evolving Denny Triangle neighborhood.

Visiting the Brontë sisters in Yorkshire

People say literary genius is a rare thing, something seen only once in a thousand or a million people. Maybe so, but the Brontës had three (and maybe five) literary geniuses in the same family.

From their father’s parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire, in northern England, the three Brontë sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne produced some of the most popular books in the English language. Works like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are still read more than 150 years after they were published. They’ve survived the test of time. The ebook edition of Wuthering Heights is currently ranked number 457 at Amazon’s Kindle store, and number 5 in the fiction classics category. Their work has been made into numerous movies and another version of Jane Eyre is coming out next year.

The sisters also prompted literary tourism to Haworth. It started not long after they died and has steadily grown ever since. While everyone comes to Haworth to see the Brontë home and related sights, they also enjoy a beautiful and well-preserved nineteenth century village full of shops and fine restaurants.

Now I have to be honest here and admit that until I went on this trip I had never read a Brontë novel. They were the classics I never got assigned in school and I figured I’d get around to whenever. Before I left for Yorkshire I read Jane Eyre and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The rich prose and sedate pacing definitely belong to the nineteenth century, but the smartass, independent female protagonist belongs to the modern world.

Much of Haworth remains as the Brontës knew it. The Brontë Parsonage Museum preserves their home and tells their story. House museums are tricky to do well. Despite being a museum junkie, some historic homes bore me to death. This one, however, gripped my attention. Besides the usual stuff like the desks they wrote at and the sofas they sat on (and Emily may have died on), there are the little details that make it stick in your memory. In the nursery where they spent their childhood faint pencil drawings can be seen on the wall. While it’s impossible to say if these literary giants doodled these when they were small, it makes you wonder.

There’s also the story of Branwell Brontë. Who? Yeah, that was always his problem. He was their brother, a failed artist and struggling writer living in the shadow of his superstar sisters. He fell into a downward spiral of alcoholism and opium addiction before dying at 31. The above painting of his sisters is Branwell’s work. He originally included himself in the portrait, then unsuccessfully erased himself. He doodled constantly, illustrating letters he sent to friends. One at the museum shows himself in two images. The first is labeled “Paradise” shows him drunk off his ass and shouting, “I am the lord of the manor!” The other is labeled “Purgatory” and shows him hunched over an opium pipe.

%Gallery-104264%The museum also tells the story of their father Patrick, the local pastor who was also a published author. Many a young woman’s ambitions were crushed in those days by domineering fathers who wanted them to get married and get pregnant. Patrick Brontë was progressive enough not to feel threatened by his daughters’ talent and encouraged them in their careers.

Beyond the Brontë parsonage you can see traces of their life everywhere. Patrick Brontë’s church stands nearby and houses the family’s memorial chapel. The pub where Branwell got drunk is just a short stagger away from the apothecary where he bought his opium. The Black Bull Inn still serves up fine Yorkshire ales, but the apothecary shop stopped carrying opiates when they started requiring a prescription. Otherwise it’s a good replica of an early apothecary and still sells traditional cures.

Haworth’s main street is down a steep hill lined with little shops. You can find delicious local cheeses and preserves, a couple of fine tearooms, some excellent secondhand bookshops, and more gift shops than you can shake a copy of Wuthering Heights at. Several historic inns offer beers and beds. At the train station a traditional steam railway offers rides.

But Haworth isn’t all tea and scones and twee little shops. There’s a dark side to the town’s history, full of ghosts, death, and despair. On my second day I discovered I was all too close to the supernatural. . .

This is the first of my new series Exploring Yorkshire: ghosts, castles, and literature in England’s north.

Coming up next: Three nights in a haunted hotel room!

This trip was sponsored by
VisitEngland and Welcome to Yorkshire.

[Photo courtesy user Mr. Absurd via Wikimedia Commons]

Cambridge named UK’s most boring place to shop

Cambridge is high on many visitors’ lists of places to go in England. The historic colleges of Cambridge University are almost as impressive as those of Oxford, and punting on the River Cam rivals a boat journey on the River Isis.

Oxford and Cambridge have always been rivals, but now Oxonians can sit back, smug in the knowledge that the “other” university is in a town deemed the blandest place to shop in the UK. The New Economics Foundation just released a list of 117 UK cities and towns ranked by the variety of shops in their centers. Cambridge came in dead last.

In a scathing review, the NEF described “a bland homogeneity” in the city center with only nine different types of shop.

Perhaps Cambridge students are too busy preparing for Suicide Sunday to think about shopping, or perhaps like many university students they only want to go to the same old, predictable stores. The study’s organizers point the finger at the university, the town’s main landlords, for pushing up rents too high for independent businesses to afford. Personally, I’ve been to Cambridge several times and while I’m not an avid shopper I didn’t notice it to be terribly homogeneous. At least the range of independent used bookshops is great thanks to students unloading their books at the end of term. But I haven’t been since 2004, so perhaps things have taken a turn for the worse.

So who ranked the best? Whitstable, a seaside town near Canterbury, which the survey said had an amazing variety of independent shops.

[Photo courtesy Andrew Dunn]

Photo of the Day (4/18/07)

Recently Jaime mentioned April being National Poetry Month so when I saw this photo tucked into the Gadling Flickr pool I felt obligated to select it, but why? Well the photographer, cfarivar, has titled the shot as “Y-Men Poem” and when as I read through I am not sure how it came about, but a few other questions came to mind. Like would it be an educated guess to say that ‘Yes’ is a lingerie store of sorts? Or does this written dialogue about panties make women really want to shop there? I love the exclamation marks after it all though!!! The excitement to be found in South Korea!!!! Let’s go – Yes?