With the revitalization of Greenwich Market underway, a host of innovative new retailers have been popping up.
A shop with unusual stock is Corkville at 17 Greenwich Market. It sells small items including bags, slippers, boots and sandals, purses, make-up bags, notepads, iPhone covers, jewellery, homeware and even umbrellas made from cork by Portuguese artisans. The cork for the creations is taken from trees that can grow for up to 200 years, with their bark harvested once every nine years.
Owner Maria Ferreira, who previously ran two successful restaurants in Portugal, says “the market said they wanted something different, so I started thinking about something from Portugal that could represent my country and that is a natural product, as this is very important to me. Portugal exports a lot of cork but people just know about the wine stoppers; they don’t know about the new, amazing things they can do with cork.” Maria hopes to progress to selling larger stock such as tables in future.
More European craftsmanship is featured at Shoe Embassy (pictured above). The shop evolved from a stall to open at 2a Greenwich Market at the end of April, promising “shoes so fabulous one wishes to sleep with them on”. It specialises in leather ladies’ shoes with an emphasis on comfort and style. Traditional designs are given a colourful
twist – chilli coloured brogues were a recent bestseller – though tan proves a perennial favourite in all styles.
“All our shoes are hand-crafted in Europe; we use only Italian and Spanish leather,” says customer service coordinator Neringa Pangonyté. “The designs are simple, classic but with a new, modern edge. Most of our styles compete against each other, but probably the classic brogue with a Shoe Embassy twist wins the medal. We are also very proud of our brogue heels and wedges, which, despite being high, are extremely comfortable.”
Fashion brand Gekko is a store with market-stall beginnings, though it started 25 years ago in Camden, where it now has a sister shop. It was due to make its Greenwich debut at 10 Greenwich Market at the beginning of June. “I think it’s the right kind of place for the stuff we sell – the market and shops around here attract the same kinds of people we attract,” says owner Tiziana Frianu.
Gekko sells “cosy yet chic hippie clothes” aimed at festival-goers, such as boho dresses, flamenco skirts, harem pants and decorative money belts. Inspirations include steam punk, Goa style and pixies and elves (think long pointed hoods). Tiziana designs the clothes with colleagues, then has them made up by a small company in India.
She says she’d term much of the style “new hippie” – “a bit hippie but better made, with more shape”. She’s so prolific at designing that she has to put a lot of extra stock on Gekko’s website: “Every season I go a little bit mad and make maybe 60 different styles… Sometimes people come into the shop wearing stuff I like and I sketch it quickly then change it a bit.”
A skirt that can also be worn as a halterneck top is among Gekko’s more innovative lines. Recent bestsellers have included mini skirts, a red flamenco skirt, a hooded mini dress and a skirt with a lace “tail”. Men aren’t left out, so everyone can embrace their inner pixie, whether heading to Glasto or just Greenwich Park this summer.
But perhaps the last word on all this activity should go to Gillie Bexson, Head of Property at Greenwich Hospital: “I think all this activity is a sign of our commitment to growing our independent businesses and designer makers throughout Greenwich. “It is fabulous to watch traders in the market grow their businesses and collaborate with each other.”