Shoreditch may be be one of London’s hippest places, but shopping in its further reaches can be a hit-and-miss affair, with stores whose DIY creativity can result in flakiness as much as excitement. This may change now that one of Britain’s sharpest retailers has taken a leap of faith and moved in. I was in that neck of the woods for a meeting – the area is stacked with designers’ and other creatives’ studios – and I spotted a familiar name on what looked like an unreconstructed, steel-windowed, 1950s office block: Aubin & Wills. At first I took it to be a new headquarters for the retailer, the family-oriented and far more interesting sibling of fratboy favourite Jack Wills.
As there was also a sign advertising an intriguing gallery, I investigated further and found that the ground floor of this still rough-and-ready building is in fact a new Aubin & Wills store. It’s much more spacious than its usual rather cramped quarters, which makes it easier to see the artfully worn-looking, wittily-styled casual wear for women, men and children – think quirky weekends from Polperro to Phuket – including special pieces such as a soft, huge, worn-in looking leather holdall (£129). I fell for a couple of summer items, especially a lace top with a vintage handicraft flavour (£149), but was seduced by an unseasonal little Renacres Fair Isle cardigan which feels divine (it’s 30 per cent cashmere), is right on the button for autumn and was a snip at £89.
After that excitement, the upstairs gallery was a relaxation. A collaboration between Aubin & Wills and in-vogue artist Stuart Semple, it currently has a photography exhibition by The Girls, which is both eccentric and entertaining. In the basement there’s a bar and a small cinema run in conjunction with Shoreditch House, empty when I visited but with a promising programme. The whole atmosphere is family-friendly, and looks set to bring the area a wider clientele, especially at weekends.