Two tiers of metal storage containers stand under the timely shadow of Shoreditch’s House and station, each playing host to streetwear brands and food outlets. This is the BOXPARK, the brainchild of Boxfresh founder Roger Wade, and its presence at the corner of Bethnal Green Rd and Shoreditch High Street is nothing new. Almost two years in the planning, the temporary shopping mall (which will remain for five years) is now open to those seeking an alternative shopping experience stocking brands such as Palladium, Nike, Calvin Klein, Gola and Original Penguin. But Wade is reticent about giving an overriding theory or justification to his latest venture: “It just sort of happened naturally,” he explains, “a bit like Dazed, I suppose you could say that we’ve just been making it up as we go along…”
Dazed Digital: How did the idea for BOXPARK first come about?
Roger Wade: I always equated storage containers to success. When I first started importing clothes from overseas, I would see the big companies transferring stock in these great metal boxes and my fascination started from there. I’d heard about shops in containers and I decided to take it one step further.
DD: How did you go about selecting brands for the site?
Roger Wade: Like a buyer for a department store; companies came to us and we just chose. There were no stipulations as such, it was more a feeling. Lots of huge, international conglomerates were keen to be involved, but we just felt it wasn’t right.
DD: You didn’t want to just create a low-tech Westfield?
Roger Wade: I would never say anything negative about those places. If it weren’t for them we would have nothing to stand apart from, nothing to make us different. But yes, low-tech and ethical are what we’re about. I like the idea of having local coffee chain Foxcroft and Ginger next to independent skate stores, next to Amnesty International, next to an Art Against Knives exhibit.
DD: Do you think that the Box Park is pioneering a new approach to retail?
Roger Wade: I’m not sure about that, but I do feel as though recent economic changes have influenced what we’ve done. When there’s less money available you have to think more creatively, and when the big companies have to call into question their own methods it opens up doors for the rest of us.
DD: What is the five-year plan?
Roger Wade: There isn’t one. You reach a stage in life when all the dots you have formed are joined together. That is what BOXPARK is for me. It is the culmination of everything I have done so far and its growth will be as natural as its origins.
BOXPARK is currently home to organic food outlets FRAE and CRUSSH, as well as retailers, EVISU, LEVI’S, VANS, ETNIES, CALVIN KLEIN, DC SHOES, GOLA NEW ERA, ORIGINAL PENGUIN, NIKE and PUMA, among many others. It has given over spaces to Art Against Knives and Amnesty International who are hosting a launch party on site this Saturday - head down to the site at 1pm for a special celebrity appearance. The spaces have been designed in accordance with the aesthetics of each brand and the resourcefulness with which they have been appropriated is something akin to art
Photos by Ravi Sidhu
Follow Nathalie Olah on Twitter here @NROlah