Is Haymarket about to get hipster-fied?

Will St James's Market and Dover street market bring hipsters to Haymarket?

Don’t go thinking Dover Street Market is the only fashion store that’s pitching its tent in Haymarket. Joining it this summer is Jigsaw, which has a new 1000 sq ft flagship opening to house its menswear, womenswear and The Shop at Bluebird concept store. A joint venture between London’s Crown Estate and Canadian firm Oxford Properties, the shopping destination dubbed ‘St James’s Market’ (below) will transform two historic blocks near Haymarket into five flagship stores, plus office spaces and a public square.

St James's Market in Piccadilly - Picture by Hayes Davidson
Haymarket is known for being a bit of a touristy nowheresville. A stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, it has an Odeon Cinema, a number of mediocre chain eateries and a Tiger Tiger bar. Yet not too long ago, it was the headquarters of Burberry. (The iconic Burberry clock that hung over the entrance to what was once a Burberry’s store, was recently handed to Christopher Bailey by new tenants Dover Street Market.) And within five minutes walk, you’re in the genteel Jermyn Street, home of such heritage delights as J.M. Weston shoes, Paxton & Whitfield cheesemongers and Floris perfumers.

The last few years have seen quite a lot of retail sprucing-up activity in the immediate area. For example, the turfing out of the super-convenient newsagents in Piccadilly Circus station in exchange for pop-up kiosks of the artisan donut type. Or retail initiatives such as a Murdock barbers pop-up and New York’s ‘Pop up Flea’, which attracted its fair share of Williamsburg-esque hipster wannabes. Not to mention the gentrification of nearby Soho and the slew of new American mega stores taking over Regent Street. (This year sees Kate Spade, Polo Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors all upping the ante.)

While it’s exciting to have new fashion blood in Haymarket and St James’s, it’s the historic charm of the area that’s the pull. I’ve been shopping in Jermyn Street and Piccadilly for years. At Christmas it’s an excellent place for grown up Christmas shopping if you want to avoid the Primark wheelie-case throngs of Oxford Street, especially if your tastes tend towards the gentlewomanly and artisanal.

But the synergy of traditional specialist brands with younger newcomers is a crucial component that shouldn’t be underestimated. As we’ve seen happen in Soho and Burlington Arcade, it would be devastating to see some of Jermyn Street’s longstanding characterful tenants disappear for the sake of a generic Ted Baker or heaven forbid, Superdry. I’m all for progress but I think it’s always best when these things are done sensitively and meaningfully, to enhance the heritage of the area, rather than corroding it.

To me, Dover Street Market is the perfect example of how to combine old and new successfully. Thankfully, it would seem that The Crown Estate is thinking along the same lines. As Anthea Harries, St James’s portfolio manager for The Crown Estate told Vogue recently, “We’re working really hard to make sure we get the right quality of brands. Anyone coming into the area has to be personal, distinctive, stimulating and eclectic. We call it redefining the refined.”

Heading to Dover Street Market? Don’t forget to check out these local gems within a five-minute walk…

Maison Assouline (below) I love this building, formerly a bank and a Hauser & Wirth gallery originally designed in 1922 by Edward Lutyens. A book-shop-cum-café, it’s a great meeting place for breakfast, coffee or drinks.
Maison Assouline Piccadilly

J.M. Weston This 125-year-old French shoemaker is known for its Limoges-made shoes in the best leathers. I love the refined silhouette of the J.W. Weston penny loafers.

The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason You might well bump into me at Fortnum’s’ ice cream parlour, indulging in one of their cappuccinos which comes accessorised with its own mini ice cream cone.

Hatchards A lovely place to browse or buy, linger over the art and fashion books upstairs or check out the collectable first editions on the ground floor for a special gift. If you’re looking for a particular rare or obscure book, they can help source it for you.

Santa Maria Novella Small and often a bit crowded, this cult Florentine pharmacy is known for its classic colognes and wonderful old school packaging.

The Wolseley A favourite haunt of beauty and fashion PRs, it’s brilliant for people watching. Come here for a coffee pit stop or a quintessential afternoon tea.

WORDS: Navaz Batliwalla/Disneyrollergirl