On the opening day of London’s newest shopping destination, GDR’s Charlie Lloyd went along to experience the Heatherwick Studio-designed space, which houses a variety of brands and eateries in renovated Victorian industrial buildings.
The redevelopment of London’s King’s Cross continues with the opening of Coal Drops Yard, a premium retail playground that sits adjacent to the similarly renovated Granary Square. The area has been incrementally primed for its new status as a shopping and social hub, with the likes of Dishoom, Spiritland and 18Montrose joining a growing roster of stores and venues seeking to capitalise on the area’s growing footfall, affluence and creative bent; since 2009 this has seen The Guardian, Central Saint Martins, Google and Havas move in.
Heatherwick Studio was tasked with reimagining Coal Drops Yard, adding a layer of modernity to buildings that once stored coal from the nearby railway. The brands within were all chosen by developers Argent because they reflect the area’s booming creativity, and as such the vendors of Coal Drops Yard are all united by a common thread of craftsmanship and design.
The new development is awash with interesting stores and boutiques. Bonds, a ‘lifestyle store, coffee shop and event space’ brings an eclectic mix of homewares made by budding local designers (complete with its own resident bulldog).
Cobbler Joseph Cheaney’s new store, like its surroundings, fuses modern design with the brand’s 130-year heritage. In-keeping with the consistent theme of craftsmanship throughout Coal Drops Yard, the store features a polishing station at its centre where customers can have their shoes polished.
From Alain Ducasse’s chocolate shop, which stores its chocolate in drawers beneath glass displays like a jeweller’s, to Tom Dixon’s store that houses an on-site studio, the focus on creativity and artisanship permeates every corner of the new development. This extends all the way through to its bars and restaurants, such as the Coal Office, which brings together an inventive menu and design by Tom Dixon, and Vermuteria, a bar celebrating Turin’s history of Vermouth distilling and inspired by the owners’ cycling trips through France, Spain and Italy.
There is a feeling, however, that this is still a work in progress. With several stores still to open, including a large Samsung experience-store that will sit above all others in the hyper-modern third storey, Coal Drops Yard itself isn’t the finished article yet, but factoring in its broader environs and the half-completed construction work that can be seen all around, you get a sense that the area itself is still effectively an early rendering of what it will eventually become.
Whether the area currently offers an experience well-rounded enough to attract weekend footfall, time will soon tell, but the focus on craftsmanship and its rejection of retail as a solely transactional undertaking shows a lot of promise. And walking around those historical buildings full of nice things made by skilled and passionate people, it feels like Coal Drops Yards has captured the magic of physical retail at a time when it’s fast being lost elsewhere.