Creating local opportunities from Hackney's new fashion centre


Today (8 March) was the topping out ceremony of Hackney Walk, a new fashion hub located in Hackney Central’s Morning Lane which will see 12 railway arches used by fashion retailers while also providing support for up-and-coming designers with studio space, apprenticeships and mentoring opportunities. Hackney Walk was developed with funding from the Greater London Authority (GLA) to regenerate parts of the capital that were worst affected by the riots in 2011.

Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, attended the event with other partners involved in the development of Hackney Walk and spoke about the how the Council will ensure that local residents are given job and training opportunities to build careers in the creative industries.

This is text from a speech given by Mayor Pipe at the event today.

Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney
Today we celebrate the beginnings of Hackney Walk – a project which had its roots in the riots that took place across the UK in 2011, and which affected this part of Hackney.

This project has not been without controversy. For some people in Hackney, the idea of spending post-riot regeneration funding on high-end luxury fashion outlets seemed counter intuitive at the very least. Part of this has been about a lack of understanding of the nature of the GLA funding and what it was intended to achieve – it was always about the economic renewal of Hackney Central and of course included a programme of shop front refurbishment for established local businesses to help them to thrive. But for some people this project struck at the heart of their discomfiture about about the rapidly changing face of East London; the negative concept of gentrification versus that of regeneration.

Hackney has changed beyond recognition over the past decade, and much of that change has been positive – it’s cleaner, it’s safer, its schools are now amongst the best in London. We have great transport links and an entirely renewed public infrastructure. But the social and economic change that has come alongside that – in particular the unprecedented surge in property and rental prices – has had a negative impact for some. Many of our residents feel uncomfortable with some aspects of the change – even those who might personally benefit from it.

A project like Hackney Walk – built on an underpinning strategy of selling luxury brands within what is still an area of high social need – was always going to strike an uncomfortable note for some. However, for me, what made this project exciting from the outset was that at its very heart was a clear ambition to create local opportunity. To create not just jobs but careers for Hackney residents – in retail, in design and across the fashion industry. Hackney Walk – or Fashion Hub – as it was then described – would not be just another high street offer or another Bicester Village. It would build on Hackney’s proud tradition as the home of creativity and cutting edge design.

So, I have always been a champion and, where necessary, a defender of this project – its scope, its ambition to bring vibrancy and success to the economy of the whole area, and most importantly, its promise of jobs and opportunities for Hackney residents. Indeed, the whole concept of Fashion Hub was led from within Hackney Council and the successful bid for GLA funds was developed by us.

Five years on, we are about to see that vision start to come to life. I know that it has been no easy task, and that there have been many logistical challenges to be overcome to get the project to this point. I congratulate the Hackney Walk team for their tenacity and hard work. It is fantastic to see how these railways arches are being transformed, and I am sure that when the new Nike store and the others alongside it open in May, we will see thousands more people visiting Hackney, bringing benefits to existing businesses as well as those just set to open.

However, no matter now successful this development is in bringing footfall to the area and generating spend through its tills, Hackney Walk will be judged by the people of Hackney in terms of how it delivers on that promise of local employment and opportunity.

I have always been clear that our relationship with this project is not as the passive recipient of CSR from incoming brands, but as one of its primary architects and as an active partner.

As Hackney Walk develops and hopefully goes from strength to strength, we will be relentless in our focus on that jobs and opportunities agenda. It is vital that, as a partnership, we continue to deliver this for Hackney people, and that we never lose sight of the original aims of this project.

It will be our job as a Council to keep working with new and existing employers to use our Ways into Work services to fill those new jobs. It will be our job as a partnership to ensure that we also create chances for young Hackney people to develop careers beyond shop floor retail and into management, into design and into other parts of the fashion industry. It will be our job to engage local people – both residents and existing business to make sure that rather than feeling alienated from this fantastic new development, that they both understand and can access the opportunities that it opens up for them.

Working together – the Council, the Hackney Walk team, brands like Nike, the GLA, new Mayor of London – we can ensure that this project delivers what it promised - life changing opportunity for the people of this borough. I look forward to working with you all to achieve that.
Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney