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Boutique by Shelter - Coal Drops, King's Cross

HemingwayDesign have been working with Shelter to design the interiors for their boutique stores since 2016. This year we had the opportunity to work on the interiors for their new flagship site in London’s coolest new retail and restaurant district - Coal Drops Yard, which is a part of the inspired and creative regeneration happening across King’s Cross.


We were especially excited to be involved in this project as it’s the first time we’ve seen a charity shop included in the lineup for a premium shopping district. As regeneration specialists and urban planners, we strongly believe that charity shops are an important part of a modern mixed retail offer. Whilst the retail industry as a whole has been in decline, charity shops in fact showed a 5% growth in 2018 – not due to austerity but because societal tastes are evolving. Today, second hand shopping has become seen as a sustainable alternative to the wasteful and polluting fast fashion industry.

Shelter decided that this ‘Boutique by Shelter’ flagship had to be different. The concept was to have carefully curated stock which showcases the best donations including designer and vintage fashion, high quality jewellery, accessories and homewares, all sold at a fraction of their original retail value. This meant our brief was to create a different look that would suit the stock and the inspirational location.

HemingwayDesign’s approach to this unique space has been to reduce, re-use and recycle as much as possible, so this looks unlike any other charity shop you’ve ever seen. We wanted to show that shopping consciously can extend from buying pre-loved to repurposing the un-loved and unused to reduce waste in the construction of the shop itself – to prove that waste need not be wasted.

The concept centres on 'modern salvage', creating a crisp, contemporary and uncluttered space using new and reclaimed construction materials, much of this being material from the Coal Drops development itself that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Found shell finishes have been retained - bare brick, grey plaster, concrete floor complete with paint splashes along with the exposed ductwork and track lighting allow visibility of the existing structural metal ceiling to give an urban industrial aesthetic harking back to the building’s industrial past.

The merchandising design is simple and effective including hanging rails from repurposed Hera fence panels and terracotta drainage pipes, shoe displays from piled paving slabs and bold central plinth in black engineering bricks providing the backdrop for an eclectic mix of product.

Shelter’s political messaging comes to the fore through a striking perimeter lightbox gallery of iconic posters retrieved from Shelter’s archive paired with constantly changing LED ticker tape text, backed by a bold wall in Shelter’s iconic bright red.

On its opening weekend sales figures exceeded expectations 7 fold with the store attracting high footfall and high quality donations especially from the surrounding affluent residential developments.


This is a dream project for HemingwayDesign as it assimilates social benefit, re-purposing and thrift, all in a visionary location.


At Coal Drops Yard, the listed warehouses that once stored the coal that fuelled Victorian London have been re-imagined by Thomas Heatherwick with his ‘kissing roof’ – a stunning rooftop intervention that's sure to be a future landmark.

Coal Drops Yard now houses over fifty stores from a mish mash of established and emerging brands, along with cafés, bars, top independent restaurants and new public spaces. This isn’t  just another unimaginative shopping centre rolling out the same old brands – it’s all about creative, independent, thoughtful shopping and discovery.

When the developers of Coal Drops Yard said “we want a charity shop of the heart of this”, they were sending an important and spot-on message about how charity retail should fit into a modern shopping mix.  Shelter was their chosen charity to sit alongside the likes of Paul Smith, Cos, Tom Dixon Wolf & Badger because it ‘fits’ with the ethos of the development.

The store’s opening in February coincided with the release of a report from a cross party committee of MPs calling for a penny tax on fast fashion to help offset its huge carbon emission – more than the aviation and shipping industries combined. In this location and at this point in time, ‘Boutique by Shelter’ is not just another charity shop. It’s representative of a revolution in fashion retail, where an increasing number of savvy consumers are tuning into sustainable fashion and choosing to buy second-hand bargains over new whilst supporting good causes and saving the environment.

In the past few years, stigma over wearing second hand has dissipated. Caring is cool, and we hope to see many more thoughtfully-designed, sustainably-built, beautiful-looking charity shops popping up across the country to lure even more shoppers over to the good side.


Update May 2019 - 3 months after opening - the client is dead chuffed with the sales performance and the store's ability to attract donors of very saleable items.


 
Shelter is a registered charity helping over four million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness, and campaigns to prevent it in the first place. These raise vital funds to support Shelter’s activities whilst offering voluntary work for the local community helping them with training and gain experience that can lead to paid work. Charity shops like Shelter help to cut our carbon emissions by millions of tonnes every year through recycling and re-using in a world where cutting carbon becomes ever more vital.


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