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East London 2012: Mawi

We catch up with founders of the east-London based jewellery brand to chat about the diverse local area and its change over recent years

With the theme of the May issue of Dazed & Confused in mind, Is East London Dead? We posed the question to east-London based jewellery designer and creative director Mawi Keivom, a resident of the area for twelve years and counting. Mawi and her partner Tim Awan chat to Dazed about the changes in the local area over the past twelve years.

Dazed Digital: You’ve been in east London for twelve years, what are your memories of the area over that time?
Mawi Keivom:
When we moved to Dalston twelve years ago it was a different place, it was still rough but we loved the grittiness. Rents were reasonable and you could get big industrial warehouse apartments and studio spaces for next to nothing. By sheer luck we got an old stable and we have been firmly rooted here ever since, we have totally outgrown the place but we are so attached to it. Buyers would arrive from west London and they used to cringe at the state of the alleyway when we had studio appointments.
Tim Awan: I was dragged here kicking and screaming, I didn’t want to move here.
Mawi Keviom: The area’s really changed over the years. Sainsbury’s was quite manky and you could go there in your pyjamas and no one would bat an eyelid. There is a huge influx of creatives and shopping at Sainsbury’s is now quite a different experience altogether. New cafés, bars and restaurants are popping up daily to add to the diversity. Although the area has always had an abundance of Turkish and Vietnamese restaurants there was nowhere to get a decent coffee or a decent English breakfast.

Now we have Café Riley just next door, A Little of What You Fancy down the road and more new cafes than you can count.

DD: Do you feel that east London filters into your work?
Mawi Keivom:
East has always inspired me and it’s always filtered through in my collections. Not just in terms of research material but especially the attitude, the originality the fierceness and fearlessness, I feel like my jewels encompass the spirit of that too. There is such a vibrant mix of people it never bores me. Every time I step out in Dalston I’m amazed at the colourful landscape.

DD: With that kind of diversity, is there still a community feel to the area?

Mawi Keivom:
Over the past few years I’ve felt that there’s been less of a community spirit as new people continue to move in. When we moved into our studio on Nimrod passage, it was very communal and friendly. We used to have alleyway parties with all the warehouses across the road. With new arrivals every day the area is more transient with people moving in and moving out daily. There are lots of new arrivals living here who have not had a long affinity to the place and their sentiment to the area is probably quite different.

DD: What do you think will happen to east London in the future?
Mawi Keivom:
East London will continue to become gentrified and it will be a very different place in 10 years. I think we are experiencing a good moment right now, it’s still gritty and rough around the edges but we also have the option to eat at more upscale restaurants and get a good coffee and shop in boutiques and specialty stores.

I doubt though that if there is another area of London that could become a serious contender. East is a network of boroughs – from Dalston, Old street, Brick lane, Spitalfields, London Fields, Columbia Road – these areas all merge into one, there is so much to offer. East is fast becoming the equivalent of Downtown New York, it’s got all the makings of it.

DD: Do you think the Olympics will change the area?
Mawi Keivom:
I think it is already happening, there’s been a lot of regeneration and transport improvement. I’m not sure if local business have benefited from the Olympics though. It doesn’t seem like there was any criteria in awarding contracts to local businesses. Most have gone to big corporations.