TO MARKET, TO MARKET: East London’s Old Spitalfields Market, a quick walk from Liverpool Street station, is evolving quietly — and quickly — into an outdoor mosaic of local traders and luxury stores.
In July, the covered market came under the sole ownership of the luxury property investor Tribeca Holdings, which wants the market to be more about locals and workers — and less about tourists.
Tribeca and its former property partners purchased the 120,000 square feet site in 2013, and Tribeca later took full control, with plans to invest approximately 50 million pounds, or $75 million at current exchange, according to sources.
The group is reimagining the space, which has been a market for 300 years and a covered one since 1882.
Other Tribeca properties include the Brompton Cross estate in Knightsbridge, and high-end sites on London’s Bond Street. In the U.S., the company’s past and present properties include Two Rodeo, and various Apple and Chanel stores.
Andrew Turf, a director at Tribeca Holdings, said his aim is to capture the multicultural spirit of the neighborhood, and make it as inclusive as possible, much like Le Marais in Paris, which caters to locals, creatives, workers and tourists alike.
Over the decades the neighborhood has served as a refuge for immigrant groups including the French Huguenot silk weavers in the 17th and 18th Centuries; Irish laborers; and Eastern European Jews fleeing persecution.
Today, a big Bangladeshi community calls it home, while labels including Giles and Fashion East have their studios there. The neighborhood is also home to City of London financial industry workers.
Today, footfall in the market is nine million people annually, with space for 57 retailers, not including the market stalls. The space is also known for its antique market, which takes place on a Thursday.
“We are very selective of the retailers and restaurateurs we chose. We don’t want a soulless place full of mass market names, but rather brands that are true to their nature,” Turf said. “We’re not trying to alienate anybody, but we want to bring back the locals who appreciate differentiation.”
Asked to compare it with Covent Garden Market, which has a similar setup with covered stalls surrounded by high-end retail and restaurants, Turf said he wants Spitalfields to be “sexier, edgier, and more selective. A destination that’s used by East End locals who have long called London home.”
Some of the new arrivals to Old Spitalfields under Turf’s watch include McQ, which has an art gallery in the basement; Belstaff; Rapha Cycle Club and a pop-up store for the online women’s fashion brand Atterley.
Indie eyewear brand Cutler and Gross has opened, as has the tailor Joshua Kane Bespoke. Bobbi Brown has a space, while Ethos, the yoga/fitness hybrid based in Cambridge, England, is set to arrive next year.
Tribeca has also opened restaurants including the all-day brasserie Blixen; Wright Brothers fish-and-oyster restaurant, Taberna do Mercado — co-owned by Nuno Mendes, head chef at Chiltern Firehouse — and Vagabond Wines.
It’s not all fancy, though, and Tribeca’s plan is also to keep the food stalls in the covered part of the market, including Café Caribbean, owned by an ex-boxer who’s been serving up his mother’s Jamaican recipes since the Nineties.
Tribeca has also purchased the Ten Bells Pub — famous for its Jack the Ripper associations — across the street from the market.
Tribeca’s wish list includes Opening Ceremony, Warby Parker, Helmut Lang, Mr. Hare, Kenzo and Vivienne Westwood.
“We want to create a true experimental destination; one that resonates with the multicultural world which is that of East London,” said Turf.