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East London 2012: Hermione de Paula

We speak to the womenswear designer based in east London about her thoughts on the changes in the local area

In the May issue of Dazed & Confused, we spoke to 30 designers, artists, and creatives to join the debate of whether 'East London is dead'. In the full interview here, we spoke to designer Hermione de Paula who talks to us about her memories of her local area as it continues to go through major social, cultural and economic changes over the last 15 years.

Dazed Digital: Who are you and what do you do for a living?
Hermione de Paula: My name is Hermione de Paula and I have a womenswear label in my own name.

DD: Where in east London are you based?
Hermione de Paula: I live in between Dalston and Stoke Newington, although I have lived pretty much everywhere around the east as I've been in London over ten years now. I just moved from Shacklewell Lane where I used to joke that they should have a monorail from there directly to Somerset House there were so many designers in one block!

DD: What first attracted you to the area and how long have you been working here?
Hermione de Paula: Initially it was the cheap rent and the good times! I have always gravitated towards east London as most of my friends who also work in creative fields are here too – it’s a cosy nest for us all to incubate in together! In the next door studio to my old place the boys made robots for a living, which can add nice surprises to your day like when you walk up on the roof and there’s a 30ft-long lifelike goose or a 9ft animatronic squirrel around the corner....

DD: How has east London changed the most since you've been here? Why do you think that is?
Hermione de Paula: It is definitely more populated than ever – no Starbucks in Dalston yet but probably not too long! Of course rent rises as the demand for properties in the area grows, but such is life... I think the biggest change is the awareness and growth due to the investment and regeneration in the area. It was run down and neglected but now it’s really on 'the map'. Although (local) people moan about this now there are great creative spaces, yoga centres, lovely cafes and fun bars and shops frequently opening up. Take LN-CC at the end of Shacklewell Lane – it’s such a beautiful store – no one would have expected such an amazing concept store like that five years ago. Last time I went in there Zaha Hadid was browsing the rails!

DD: What is the most exciting part of your local creative community?
Hermione de Paula: The opportunity to collaborate with other creative people is amazing. Also, the potential to support local businesses but also factories and shops that cater for my line of work. I also like bumping into people when you least expect it. You'll never be or feel alone, even if you want to be for just five minutes!

DD: Has the area informed your creative work at all and if so, how?
Hermione de Paula: Yes, of course, it’s great to be inspired and all have a shared sense of purpose. The area invites hard-working, talented individuals as well as the fun party-characters – watching people thriving in their fields inspires me to work harder. I also love the summers here: hanging out in the late summer sun after work, meeting friends in the park, having barbeques and walking my dogs.

DD: Is it possible to say ‘Silicon Roundabout’ aloud without laughing?
Hermione de Paula: Hmm! Not sure, should I? Sounds like the name of a naff band!

DD: What's your favourite East End hangout?
Hermione de Paula: My new favorite hangout is my work/live space. I have converted two derelict shipping containers (i.e. two rusty old lorries!) welded onto a Victorian basement with a cab office upstairs which leads onto a roof terrace overlooking the East London Line...  I have been doing it up in pretty much all my spare time so have been hanging there a lot! We also tend to spend time in others’ creative spaces – zig-zagging around the area. Just the other day I was talking to someone who had been to a party at my good friend and long-time photographic collaborator Kristin Vicari’s old studio. She had affectionately dubbed it the basement because of its underground location – and it was funny because he actually thought it was a club!

DD: Does anything annoy you about the area? If so, what?
Hermione de Paula: The pavements are hardcore on the heels. I kissed goodbye to my favourite Nick Kirkwood heels on the tough streets on Shacklewell Lane not so long ago!

DD: What are you going to do during the Olympics – stay or flee? Why?
Hermione de Paula: I don’t think fleeing is an option as I have a live/work space so the show must go on. A lot of my friends are talking about renting theirs. I wish I could – I'd buy a first-class ticket to Tokyo!

DD: Is east London dead?
Hermione de Paula: That’s quite a statement, I’d prefer not to be so mean! Lots of creative people are still here, so I guess that speaks volumes. I don’t like to moan about things – I’m so lucky to be able to wake up every day and do what I love for a living, and be surrounded by friends and neighbours who are lucky enough to say the same thing. 

Dazed Digital invites you to map your east London memories on our timeline, 'A Secret History of East London'. Get involved HERE!