Pubs, Clubs, Clothes and Shoreditch

Rooftop Pool

On Monday we received a new brief – putting aside, for now, our coffee research we were asked to research into clothes shops and bars. Not being a particular proponent for the flowing trends in fashion and its surrounding sub-cultures, I knew I would prefer the latter research to the former but regardless, off we went on a shopseeing tour to Shoreditch.

In contrast to our analysis of coffee shops, we found the retail research a bit of a struggle primarily due to none of us feeling overly inclined to buy into the faux-vintage aesthetic so prominent in Shoreditch. It was interesting that, as more often open-minded designers, our prejudices seemed to get in the way a bit when it came down to fashion. Perhaps this is due to clothing very much being a public display of your identity, whether intentional or subliminal, however, once we noticed this was happening we had an understanding that we should not be looking into this from a personal perspective but as design researchers.

The next day we went to Covent Garden and Carnaby Street giving us the opportunity to see some more diversity in style. We parted ways, each went to see different shops and regrouped to discuss any insights making for a much more successful approach. Ben and Chris have already touched upon the madness that was the Build-a-Bear shop and I was quite drawn towards the madness of the Ted Baker décor (though, disappointingly, not so much the clothes). It was also interesting to see comparisons in aspects such as staff service, changing rooms, window displays and floor layout – all aspects clearly designed and implemented with the intention of effectively promoting sales. A few routes for development emerged from here but they are currently being developed so will plan for them to fully emerge, making a bit more sense, in a later post.

Anyway, returning to the previous day in Shoreditch, that night we went out to explore some bars with the idea being that there would be some clear comparisons with our coffee shop insights but there would also be some fresh ones. As with coffee shops, bars are also a place to socialise and can have scope for you to be educated about the product being sold however the outcomes of a lecture in a bar is usually somewhat more detrimental than that of a café or clothes shop!

The first port of call was Book Club which had quite a trendy and lively vibe about it so I ordered a cocktail from their list doing my best to pick one requiring obscure ingredients. The barmaid was unfamiliar with how to prepare the drink (possibly down to a mean choice) but when it arrived it was rather tasty! The bar was host to an eclectic mix of people, from goths to businessmen, and as such had a laid back and welcome atmosphere. In contrast, our next destination – Shoreditch House (fancy pool-on-the-roof image of it at top), had a very exclusive feel to it, primarily down to its paid members only policy (conveniently there was a member in our midst who managed to blag his way in along with surplus guests!) Again, I ordered a cocktail and again it was a purposefully persnickety one. This time, however, there was no hesitation and the preparation was as professional as the presentation. We stayed for a game of table football (Chris beat Genis and Ben beat Utku – though Utku will probably deny this) and had dinner to get a full appreciation of “the research”. Finally we rounded of the night at a near by pub called “The Owl and The Pussycat” so that we could meet up with a few other Mint’s out and about but mainly so that Chris could have his much sought-after pint of ale.

As hazy as insight finding became towards the end of the night, it was great to see comparisons between the three very different venues. The one key thing they had in common however was the aspect of sociability – the seating was always arranged in groups around a table and there was scope to also play games with friends via pool tables, foosball tables, board games and even a ping pong table which was found in Book Club. It was interesting though to consider the solo aspect of bars, it’s something which is still even considered slightly taboo yet is having a drink at a bar on your own so dissimilar to going to a café on your own? We will be further exploring some thoughts on bars this afternoon so I’ll finish up these musing for now.


Aug 19
1:37 pm
5 notes


Shopping for Clothes (and Building Bears)


The trend of retail spaces, particularly in East London, having a contrived worn and old-fashioned look is a curious one. Rough wooden surfaces, condensed typography, steel girders, exposed brickwork… As we started to research clothing stores this week, it seemed to be everywhere. It’s an aesthetic that is certainly very attractive - it suggests an older, more wholesome age from the past (though one that possibly never existed).

This aesthetic was also evident in the coffee shops we were looking at last week. We noticed an interesting difference between the clothes stores and the coffee sellers though, and this was the role of the staff in shaping your experience. If you approached someone working at Prufrock or Caravan and asked them about their coffee, they would have a lot to say about where its sourced, how its made, what it tastes like - and would be more than happy to tell you about it.

With clothing, there is just as much (if not more) to discuss about the process of making. Materials, sizing, stitching, cut and fit - every stage of making a quality garment is a careful, deliberate and engrossing process. But I found that if you asked staff about their products in a clothing store, their knowledge of these things tended to be far more limited.

The reason for this, I think, is because there is too much of a divide between how & where clothes are made, and the places they are sold. It allows some manufacturers to get away with making really cheap clothes in exploitative conditions, and it allows others to put extortionate price tags on clothes that are actually of poor quality. If more could be done to bridge this gap, I think it might help people to value clothes in a different way - based on how well-made and long-lasting they are, rather than price or image.

Retail experiences where customers are physically involved in the making of what they buy do exist, but in other spheres. Build-a-Bear is a chain store of teddy making factories, jazzed-up as retail outlets, rather than hidden tools of production. Customers choose the ‘skin’ of the bear, how much stuffing goes into it, what clothes it wears, and can even record their own sound for the speaker that goes inside of it. However, I would say the most intriguing part of this process is the electronic beating heart that the user is asked to place inside the teddy whilst screaming “I LOVE MY BEAR” at the top of their voice. Its interesting because when the customer has a part in the process of making a product, they have a much stronger emotional investment in it.


The last couple of days, we’ve been thinking about you might try to do that with clothing. There must be ways that technology and good design can help make this process of customisation accessible to more than just those who can afford a high-end tailor. Blank Label is a great little website where people can order custom shirts that they have designed themselves online - choosing the material, fit, buttons, pockets, to name just a few of the choices. It could be really interesting to take that sort of “make-your-own” interaction and start to put it into physical stores, involving and educating people in the way their clothes are put together as they shop.

- Chris (with a little help from Ben)

Aug 18
3:35 pm
1 note


Foundry is a research team at Mint Digital.
Foundry is all about exploring physical objects which connect to the web though digital technology.

We are currently working on:
The Smell of Success