Lakeside, Oxford Street, Bluewater and Westfield, these are all different names for the same thing, descriptions of the undulating pit of hell. These mega malls and so called shopping destinations suck us in, chew up our soul and vomit us back out in to the cold light of day. Post visit we stagger home carrying our battle scars and shopping bags like badges of honour, yes, I went to Westfield, I am that man, and I survived. OK, maybe my views on shopping are extreme, maybe I’m just not built of the right stuff to battle the sea of elbows on Oxford street. I freely admit that I don’t understand the compulsion to go ‘Up West’ and go toe to toe with a hundred other people in order to buy some cheap pants in Primark. Although I don’t like it, I have sometimes had to face the horror of big shopping. I went to Westfield earlier this year, I felt like I had walked through the gates of hell. I managed about five minutes inside Hades before survival instinct kicked in, I hunted down the nearest exit and legged it.
Whilst I have never been a fan of endurance shopping, I have always kind of liked keeping it local. You know how it is, pop in to a shop, then stop for a tea, another shop then another tea, then a pint in the local if all starts getting a bit much. I’m a particular fan of keeping it local at this time of year. The run up to Christmas seems to bring out the extreme shoppers, and being near home means I can easily escape if I need to. The choice of local shops and markets has steadily been getting more varied over the years, and this year, for a few weeks only, there’s something exciting happening in The Mall. Local group, E17 Designers, are running a pop up shop until the 24th December, and on Saturday I braved the cold to go and have a look.
The pop up is a new venture for the E17 Designers, usually the group can be found at markets at the Asian Centre on Orford Road, or popping up for a couple of days at places like the William Morris Gallery, so the pop up shop is a little more permanent than their usual outings. Inhabiting the space formally occupied by a jewellers, the shop is located towards the BHS end of The Mall. The red banner and sign above the door which both have the familiar E17 Designers logo on them make the shop easy to spot. The font window is jam packed with a selection of the goodies that can be found inside. Ceramics, prints textiles and jewellery glint in the light and beckon passers by to step inside. The shop is pretty small but it works well. The slightly bonkers gold textured walls make it feel like you have just walked in to an Aladdins cave.
There was a great mix of goods available in the shop, I particularly liked the prints by Hooksmith Press, one of which promised Scenic day excursions to Walthamstow via the River Lee. Another print that grabbed my attention read “Build Bikes Not Bombs”, which for all kinds of reasons seems pretty appropriate right now. Other designers selling their wares in the shop include Karin Akesson and jewellery by Malcolm Morris. The designers will rotate on a weekly basis, so each visit will offer something slightly different to those popping in to the pop up.
This idea was the brain child of the marketing manager of the Mall, and it’s a great one. Shopping centres are usually only the stomping grounds of big brands and chains. Giving space to local makers at this time of year is a brave move, but one that I’m sure is destined for success. There were loads of people in the shop when I went in, and as the designers rotate regularly I’m sure that will encourage people to re-visit. The pop up is a great example of how large companies like the Mall can engage with local groups like the E17 Designers, who in turn help smaller scale makers and designers to sell direct to the public. With this pop up and the regular markets at the Asian centre and William Morris Gallery, plus all the other local traders such as 70 Hoe Street and the markets on Wood Street, there really is no need to endure the torture of Oxford Street again. #ShopLocal