One glance at Lisa Aiken’s perfectly curated Instagram feed might just spark your envy. The fashion maven is consistently seen traversing the globe and strutting the streets of the world’s top fashion capitals in flawless ensembles — which is not surprising, considering her much coveted job title as Net-a-Porter’s retail fashion director. However, when she’s not attending fashion season or living it up in her favourite city, New York, Aiken prefers indulging in a slower pace of life back home.
“I’m very into interiors at the moment. It’s nice for me to go into a magazine store and buy interior magazines instead of fashion magazines,” said Aiken, who just bought a Victorian House in Walthamstow Village near Hackney. “When you work in fashion, you eat, sleep and breathe fashion, so having an alternative is quite necessary.”
Central London may be the beating heart all visitors to England’s capital city flock to. But for those in the know, East London is a creative’s haven. Home to many studio spaces, the area is a hotbed for talent. British award-winning fashion label J.W. Anderson and women’s luxury ready-to-wear fashion brand Erdem are just some of the success stories hailing from the place. “It’s not as expensive as West London, so it attracts a lot of designers and artists, the creative crowd,” Aiken explained.
“Shoreditch is where all the cool kids hang out,” she added. “I love taking a really relaxing stroll along Shoreditch, as it’s filled with amazing street art. There are a lot of places to go to, like little stores by the side of the road. It’s just a wonderful place to walk around and stop for a bite.”
Her favourite brunch hangout in the area? The Breakfast Club. “It does really great breakfast and is just chilled out — you’ve always got good music on and it’s quite community spirited,” said Aiken. “There’ll be a book club, readings, or music performances which go on till the evening even though it’s called The Breakfast Club.”
And of course, one can’t go to any part of London without visiting the many bars that make up the city. One of Aiken’s favourite is a speakeasy called Happiness Forgets, which has gained its spot as the 10th best bar in the world on the World’s Best Bars list, and is a regular haunt for London liquor lovers and bartenders who are travelling around the globe.
With a slogan such as “Good drinks, no wallies,” one wouldn’t expect anything less. The bartenders at the cosy basement bar concoct innovative cocktails such as the Tokyo Collins, a refreshing drink made of Beefeater Gin and Yuzu Sake — shaken up with fresh lemon and grapefruit juice, and then topped with soda.
Aiken also frequents The Nightjar, a prohibition era-style speakeasy, as well as the Boundary Rooftop Bar & Restaurant — a glamorous rooftop venue perched atop the Terence Conran-designed Boundary Project.
While East London boasts a vibrant night life, that’s not all there is to this alternative part of London. One of Aiken’s favourite past times is strolling around the inspiring district and enjoying everything it has to offer. She let us in on her off-the-beaten-path locales — the first is a flower market where you’ll come upon rows and rows of colourful blooms.
“One of my favourite places to go to on a Sunday is Columbia Road Flower Market, which is just a mile of incredible flower stalls,” said Aiken. “You will see the traders selling you bunches of tulips and shouting, ‘Two for five! two for five!’ in their Cockney accents. It has the vibe of old school East London.”
Aiken’s second favourite place is a neon wonderland located in the heart of Walthamstow Village, where she lives. Called God’s Own Junkyard, it is a cafe which has iconic signs from movies such as Superman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Dark Knight. Stepping in, you’ll see a big Stark sign, made by artist Chris Bracey for the movie Captain America. Bracey opened the junkyard with his wife, Linda, and it became home to his artwork and many signs he has worked on for films, music videos and fashion shoots over his 40-year career.
“In the ’70s and ’80s, Soho was the place to be — and it was lit up with all these eclectic neon lights,” Aiken explained. “Chris and Linda, the owners of God’s Own Junkyard, collected all the neon lights from that area, in addition to their own.”
“Chris also acquired a giant sign from The Blitz Factory, which was the trendiest nightclub of the ’80s,” she said. “The sign is now used for a separate function hall you can hire, where props from the junkyard would be brought in according to your chosen theme at just £700 (S$1,249).”
“Columbia Road Flower Market and God’s Own Junkyard are two of the places I always take my friends to whenever they visit me,” said Aiken. “I just never get bored of them.”