COURTESY MODERN SOCIETY
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Modern Society, London. Towards gentrification

In the autumn of 2015, after two years of pop-up stores around the world, the Modern Society concept store opened permanently in Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, London

In the autumn of 2015, after two years of pop-up stores around the world, the Modern Society concept store opened permanently in Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, London. Originally from Moscow, the founder of Modern Society is called Nazifa Movsoumova. A former law student, she has also worked in finance and so, as well as having flair and creativity, she is probably in a position to make well-pondered market choices. The role of communications manager is covered by an exotic beauty called India Blue van Spall. Tees by Annie Bing, swimming costumes by Ciao Lucia (Los Angeles), the pastels of Sandy Liang (New York)… all served up with fashion and design magazines such as Kinfolk, Appartamento and Drift – for coffee lovers.

The district known as the East End lies to the east of the Roman and medieval walls that surrounded the city of London and to the north of the Thames. The heart of the East End is Shoreditch, which used to be in the county of Middlesex and includes the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The history of London is a tale of art, poetry and literature; that of Shoreditch also includes poverty and violence. In 1576, James Burbage had the first theatre of the Elizabethan era built here in the overpopulated streets of Shoreditch, with their shopkeepers and beggars. It hosted the debut of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, directed by a William Shakespeare up to his eyeballs in debt. A few centuries later, in nearby Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes on behalf of the freemasonry, while in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries an addition to gin, at the time a lethal turpentine concoction and nothing to do with today’s sophisticated dry versions, caused unprecedented social devastation, and Shoreditch alone was home to nine thousand sellers of the tipple. It was also home to Dickens’ Oliver Twist and David Copperfield in the late nineteenth century together with their gang of petty thieves and women of ill repute. Like many other English nursery rhymes, Oranges and Lemons is rooted in history and uses the pealing of London’s church bells to describe the city’s different districts. “When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch” alludes to a wealth that was unimaginable for the local factory workers, Irish laborers and Ashkenazi Jews. The worst of the worst in Shoreditch was Redchurch Street, which led to Old Nichol, a slum described in the classic of English literature A child of the Jago by Arthur Morrison: in 1880 it was home to the workshops of carpenters, woodcutters and cabinet makers, and some six thousand people, all living in tiny crowded rooms.

Out of the slums, through artists and degenerates, came gentrification. Shoreditch today is one of the most on-trend districts in London and the cradle of the hipster movement. Rents start at £2,500 a month, having seen an increase of 25% over the last five years, and the E2 postcode has become synonymous with a sophisticated lifestyle. Among the old brick houses in Old Street and the antiques market in Brick Lane, once filled with factories and orphanages, today you will find art galleries, design studios and luxury boutiques. Shoreditch itself, described as squalid and desolate by Alexander McQueen, is today home to the London College of Fashion, the Fashion Antidote school and the London branch of the Marangoni Institute (in a street called, not by chance, Fashion Street).

It goes without saying that one of the trendiest addresses in this district is obviously Redchurch Street, a concentration, in just a few meters, of some of the city’s most important names in fashion and art. The rebirth—late—of Redchurch started in the nineties with the arrival of the artists Sarah Lucas and Tracy Emin, at the time represented by the nearby White Cube Gallery. In 2009, the opening of Shoreditch House, a club frequented by the elite of the creative scene, brought wealthy clients to Redchurch Street, with the consequent opening of top-end restaurants and shops. Modern Society is at number thirty-three.

One of the most recent trends in concept stores is interior decor like that of art galleries: aseptic, minimalist surroundings with cold lighting. But as avant-garde as these furnishings may be, they do not help sales, especially not inside a concept store where the promotion of an idea of style comes before any of the articles it sells. Far better then to recreate surroundings that feel like home, so that the client feels at ease and can readily imagine the articles in their own house, be they furnishings or clothing. Designed by Trend & Fayre, the interiors of Modern Society with its checkerboard floor, armchairs upholstered in velvet, wooden furniture and natural lighting, recall a lounge, in that shabby-chic style that was all over London in the nineties and which still dominates intellectual circles. The cafeteria in the entrance and the window feature a modular espresso bar serving specialty coffees by local producers. This fusion of shopping and hospitality recalls the Nordic concept of retail: in Scandinavian and Northern European countries (Holland and Denmark), it is unthinkable for a client to walk into a top-end shop without being offered at least a coffee.

Movsoumova is linked to the traditional idea of shop, to that retail therapy that belongs to the era before e-commerce, before digital algorithms told us what we wanted to buy. Modern Society has no e-commerce, but to compensate it works in synergy with its local area, embracing the eclectic, artistic spirit of Shoreditch. During the day, fashion and design professionals are in and out of the shop looking for new products, as are artists seeking inspiration and international clients who follow the brand on Instagram. New brands are sourced by Movsoumova mainly on Instagram and also at fairs in London and Paris—Pure, Capsule and Tranoi. In the evenings, the shop—again with a view to synergy with its district—hosts events and exhibitions by local artists.

Modern Society sells clothing for men and women, sneakers, accessories, home furnishings, fragrances and stationery. Movsoumova’s style, jeans and Converse in a word, shines through in the choice of the items on sale; nothing OTT or anything too eccentric. Colorful prints feature on fine fabrics and well-made articles. Only accessories—bracelets, earrings and hairclips—are allowed the odd extravagance. There are no must-have pieces in any season, an old-fashioned concept in any case in street boutiques given that everything you see on the runway can be bought in real time from Yoox or Net-a-porter, Instead, here you will find timeless articles, the sort that people like to buy and wear regardless of season or fashion. The brands include Club Monaco, APC and a series of emerging labels sold exclusively for England. Together with the essential oils of rose and bitter orange, there are also Le Labo fragrances and homeware includes glassware, ceramic vases and recycled glasses by the French La Soufflerie. In 2016, Modern Society launched its first fashion collection, a unisex line in neutral colors and cashmere knits. In 2018, the store opened a branch in Los Angeles, which sells English brands.


33 Redchurch St, Shoreditch

London

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