In Dalston, a dynamic pocket of East London, an edgy arts scene blooms amid repurposed factories, side streets sprinkled with tiny shops, tucked-away public gardens and colorful outdoor markets catering to longtime Afro-Caribbean and Turkish communities. Cool kids and chess-playing old-timers commune over thick Ethiopian espresso at Kaffa Coffee, a neighborhood institution. Fashion statements abound: Men in cropped shirts and voluminous trousers. Women tattooed and accessorized to the nines. And inventively clad millennials, more than a few affiliated with the designer ateliers headquartered here. Indie artists are a buzzy fixture in Dalston, flowing in and out of a D.J. booth run by NTS, the influential internet radio station on lively Gillett Square.
1. Hang-Up Gallery
This 10-year-old gallery’s calling card is provocative artwork by the likes of Oddly Head, Nina Saunders, David Shrigley, Harland Miller and Banksy. (There is a dedicated downstairs “bunker” devoted to the elusive street artist.) In the evenings, compelling events have involved the unveiling of hip-hop icon Run-DMC’s Darryl McDaniels’s comic art (along with an intimate performance) and a collaboration between The Connor Brothers and Nadya Tolokonnikova of feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot in support of refugees.
Down an unmarked stairwell off the main drag of Stoke Newington Road, you’ll find LN-CC (which stands for Late Night Chameleon Café, even though it’s not a cafe). The eight-year-old spot is a high-concept, subterranean boutique with six “lifestyle” rooms interconnected by a glowing, 40-foot-long cylindric wooden tunnel. Recognizable brands (Gucci, Rick Owens, Raf Simons) are mixed with niche ones: Vejasneakers, Venczel handbagsand GmbH, a clubby men’s wear brand. The library room is stocked with esoteric books and vinyl, while a back bar and club space is used for fashion events, yoga classes and frequent “music listening” parties in a neighborhood that is home to many record labels.
3. Brunswick East
On the ground floor of a warehouse turned creative work space, this airy cafe offers playful takes on brunch dishes — chili-poached eggs, cauliflower toast drizzled with toasted sunflower tahini, smashed avocado garnished with edible flowers, lattes with housemade nut milks. The industrial particleboard walls, table legs fashioned of rebar and plants suspended by commercial steel cable (plus repurposed Victorian pub lighting) lends to the D.I.Y. charm of this three-year-old spot. A ceramics project space sells wares from a collective of local potters.
4. Bootstrap Company
Since 1978, Bootstrap, a charitable social enterprise, has used its converted factory space as a community gathering spot and to launch entrepreneurs ranging from tech start-ups and musicians to fashion brands. Its gallery showcases emerging artists, while the public roof deck in warmer months offers film screenings and cultural events, including pop-up food stalls. Bootstrap’s other draw is a four-year-old incubator space (adjacent to the main building) called The Bootyard, with tricked-out shipping containers serving as production facilities for a microbrewery, a coffee liqueur company and the Dusty Knuckle Bakery, which serves housemade pastries and sandwiches.
5. Pelican and Parrots
In this resale shop, which opened nine years ago, the owners, Ochuko Ojiri and Juliet Da Silva source eye-catching (and reasonably priced) vintage clothing and decorative objects. Gucci and Versace print tops, Moschino biker jackets and retro dresses from lesser-known Italian brands line the perimeter of the room. In the main space, you’ll find midcentury furniture and bric-a-brac — namely, Victorian cloche jars, African feathered headdresses and ‘60s-inspired ceramics. Head upstairs for pieces from obscure labels: leather-fringed tops, straw hats, scarves, jeans, swimsuits and other accouterments for the budget-conscious.
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