Encountering Londons City Folk

As mentioned on my previous post, I went up to London quite a lot this week. The first trip was for my group project, where we went all around the city to do some investigative research. Our research day began on Monday, January 20, 2014. We had a super early start of the day as we had to catch the 6am bus up to London. As exited as I was, I was dreading the thought days before of having to get up at 4am. I am sooo not a morning person at all and had two-three strong cups of coffee to get me through the day. We were dropped of at Marbel Arch at around 9am and started to make our way to Oxford Street (otherwise known as shopper’s paradise). Despite walking pass places like Topshop, River Island, I sadly had to keep reminding myself that retail therapy wasn’t going to be the purpose of this trip. The main objective was to research and seek out inspiration for design ideas for our product range, branding and visual communication ideas as well as street photography and interviewing random Londoners.

The first place were we began our research was high end department store Selfridges. We decided that it would be a good place to start in terms of product development ideas and branding. We started off by roaming around the home/tech department just below the ground floor. At one point, we came across these really cool light displays, which gave us an idea of how we could design our own retail space for our brand. For actual product design ideas and research, we took the escalators up to the 2nd and 3rd floor to the high end apparel department. Going into the Chanel section (which seems to be a stereotypical thing for fashion students to do), we found these twin mannequins that would be great for our visual research. Look at the price tags of some Chanel goodies, I then realized in order for me afford any of these luxury items is if I were to donate a few of my organs (1 kidney + liver = Chanel Jacket). One of the products we want to include in our product range is a jacket. Taking pictures of jackets that stood out for us in terms of silhouette, color, length, texture, gave us some really good ideas. I was particularly quite fond of the design details on cuffs of some jackets. One of the brands that we researched for our visual marketing strategy ideas was The Kooples. We were little disappointed of its visual merchandising display of their items. Despite the TV display showing their fashion films, we expected something more that would reflect their marketing strategy that consist of so called couples wearing their product (eg. Guy/Girl mannequins next to each other).

The second half of the morning consisted of visiting the National Portrait Gallery at Trafalgar Square. One of our main components of our online publication is street photography of real life duo’s. We were heavily inspired by the Humans of New York blog and wanted emulate the authenticity of its visual concept of real life people with real life stories. But we also figured that it would be cool to include some historical references and artwork for our research. As a museum visiting enthusiast, I must say that the one thing I always thought was fascinating about painted portraiture was how well an artist was able to convey a lot of character of the actual subject, especially elaborated aristocrats from hundreds of years ago.

Afterwards we went from west to east and took the tube to the trendy area of Brick Lane. Seeing as it was around lunch time, we decided to treat ourselves to some tasty cupcakes. Gotta love red velvet! Walking by random shops, we eventually stopped by Brick Lanes famous music record store Rough Trade. With all this online downloading of music going on at this day and age, it was nice to walk into a record shop roaming through shelves of old school and contemporary CDs/LPs. It made music more tangible. As a genuine music lover, this was an experience I defiantly have been missing. We also to mess around in its popular photo booth and managed to take a group picture to add to the experience. As we left the shop, we encountered a group school children and teachers going around the area with clipboards doing street surveys about graffiti. So seeing as we both need surveys done, we simply just surveyed each other for our own projects. The Street art/ graffiti in my opinion highlights a divers range of contemporary subcultures and styles which certainly adds to Brick Lanes charm.

In terms of street portrait photographs and interviews, Brick Lane was very successful! One of our most memorable moments was when we met this couple on the street who said that they literally just got back together the night before. Their “how they met story” was certainly rather unconventional, as they met through having an affair at work. However their story did have a charming appeal (Not that I support cheating or anything, but they did seem really sweet together). Overall, I find this to be one of my favourite areas in London, as it is a nice change of scenery from the west end overly crowded touristy places.

Later on in the afternoon we went back west over to Covent Garden. The area is very popular for street performers/comedy acts so we decided to take a break and watch a performance. Unfortunately, the performer didn’t seem to have attracted a lot of people to gather around and watch him. He also nearly ran us over with his unicycle, despite us sitting on the side of the pavement. So we decided to move on…. Despite getting some “No’s” from unwilling “passbyers”,  our continued street interviews/portrait photographs did managed to go well. At one point, we met this Boheiman couple who live on a boat.

Next up was Camden! Heavily populated by the a diverse range of alternative subcultures, Camden is known for having popular open markets, music venues and has even become popular hot spot for tourists. Walking along the high street, you would immediately notice the quirky style of the buildings in terms of color and things such a giant model of a shoe stuck onto them. We then came across a diverse range of food stands from basically all over the world. From Chinese, Indian, Jamaican etc, I seriously wish I was hungry again to eat all the food! This was the first time I ever went up to Camden and would certainly like to back up there again sometime. (Food and shopping galore!)

As the evening approached and we only had a few hours left before our bus ride back home, we decided to explore an area that wouldn’t be too far from our meeting point. So Carneby Street was our final destination. In the 1960s, Carneby Street has established itself into a cultural phenomenon. Just imagine yourself traveling back in time to 50 years ago, were this street would have been filled with Mods, Teddy Boys The Beatles fans, Twiggy admirers etc. Walking through the shops in Carneby gave us some good potential visual merchandising/branding ideas of how we would display our items and what type of shops would suit our product range. We actually found The Kooples shop that looked better than its display in Selfridges. Walking into one of my favorite shops such as Monki, I once again strongly had to remind myself that this trip was for “business” rather than “pleasure”.

Before headed back to the bus stop, we decided to take a short detour over to Regent Street. As we were walking along, we notice that there was a huge crowd gathered in front of Guess. Seeing as this was London, It wouldn’t be a surprise if a celebrity was actually in there. We didn’t know who it was at the time, but after some internet search, it turned out that Bollywood Actress/Singer Priyanka Chopra was promoting her debut single as the flagship store. She wasn’t the only famous person we ran into during our trip. Our spotting of Seann Walsh and Ella Eyre pretty much happened back to back in the same area.  Sadly I can’t say “our”, as I was the only one who didn’t see them cause my head was turned the other way and didn’t notice them… I love Ella Eyre so I was actually a little annoyed about that one.

Overall the trip turned out to be a success, as we got what we needed to compile our brand research for our publication and product range. It was a very long day but a great experience of getting to explore an exiting city that has so much to offer. From coming across laid back bohemians, hipsters, sharp dressed business men, I feel like our photographs, notes and memories from this experience, were able to capture the authentic day to day life of the city folk.

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Twin Chanel Mannequins

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Cool jacket cuff detail

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Cupcakes at Brick Lane

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Rough Trade at Brick Lane

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Photobooth!

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Doc Martens at Camden

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The Koolpes at Carneby Street

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Celebrity madess over Priyanka Chopra at Regent Street

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