When you think of Knightsbridge, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and other such expensive outlets might spring to mind. It’s the kind of place that only the super wealthy can afford, isn’t it?
#VillageLondon traveled to Knightsbridge to find out if there was more to this area than handbags and glad rags. What we found is an intimate, caring and close-knit community that is all too happy to stand apart from the crowd.
London's Best Kept Secret
Venture down Walton Street, far from the madding crowd and you encounter something which perfectly captures the essence of #VillageLondon.
Hazel Collins owns and runs boutique EH Lifestyle and has lived in Knightsbridge her whole life. Knowing the area like the back of her hand she points out that Walton Street is one of London’s best kept secrets. This is in part because residents and businesses have formed a tight bond. Hazel says “All the residents are friendly with all the shop owners who in turn are friendly with the residents and really listen to their feedback.”
All the residents are friendly with all the shop owners.Hazel Collins - EH Lifestyle
Familiar And Friendly
Indeed, upon entering EH Lifestyle, there is an immediate feeling of being somewhere familiar and friendly. The staff, the ever smiling Alan, Karen, and Hazel herself, greet you with warmth and the offer of a hot drink. This is a feeling that Hazel has cultivated over the 25 years she has run the shop.
She says, “People go to a supermarket because it’s a one-stop-shop, we’re more of a one-stop-experience. Most of our customers refer to us as their family, that’s very flattering.”
A Global Market On A Local Scale
That family extends globally, something quite unique given EH Lifestyle is a small independent shop tucked away in a quiet part of Knightsbridge. Hazel points out, “we have people who come from Scotland to come to us, there’s a woman in Australia who comes to us twice a year. We have a customer in America who writes us letters asking for pictures of anything new we have in stock. We’re very much a little environment but people trust our taste and style. We don’t impose our style, we want to find out what your style is and offer something that fits in with you.”
While #VillageLondon is visiting EH Lifestyle, a lady brings her daughter-in-law in for some pampering and a bit of retail therapy having had little sleep since her child was born six months ago. The excursion was a present from her mother-in-law who pointed out that EH Lifestyle was a ‘home away from home’ for her.
It's A Generational Thing
That sense of the familiar stretches the length of Walton Street. A few shops down from EH Lifestyle and you’ll find the Nursery Window, a stunning infants shop that stocks everything from traditional baby clothes to cribs and everything else baby-related you can imagine. It’s been there 30 years. Speaking to employees Ruby and Becky there is a sense of pride in the service they provide for the community. “The great thing about a baby business is that babies never go out of fashion, we’ve always got people coming in all year round. But we also have generations coming in because the shop has been here so long. So parents who bought their children’s clothes here are now coming in to buy for their grandchildren.”
We had 30,000 people show up [to Banksy’s exhibition].Acoris Andipa - Andipa Gallery
Speaking of generations is something local gallery owner Acoris Andipa, who owns and runs Andipa Gallery, knows something about all too well. “The gallery was set up here by my mother in 1967. I took over 24 years ago. I used to live upstairs.” Acoris takes great pride in his place in the community but also what the gallery has come to represent on a grander scale. “We did the world’s first secondary Banksy exhibition. He used to have a gallery of his own he displayed in but we were the first gallery outside of that to show his work. We had 35,000 people show up which surprised us somewhat - we had to bring in crowd control. It was quite the event.” Andipa Gallery also works closely with local museums in particular the V&A and have set up an award with the Royal British Society of Sculptors for international artists to win an exhibition and a year’s mentoring.
Forget The Preconceptions
So, perhaps it’s time to rethink the preconceptions of Knightsbridge. Does Walton Street indicate that it isn’t all upper-crust rich folk? Hazel certainly thinks so. “People don’t understand Knightsbridge, they think it’s all toffee- nosed.” She goes on to highlight that, “there’s a community living here that is incredibly warm and welcoming to each other. It’s time to put the Knightsbridge brand to bed.” You have been told designer labels.
Knightsbridge Cultural Highlights: Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal Albert, Andipa Gallery, Brompton Oratory.
According to Property Detective Knightsbridge has:
Very Good – Local Childcare
Is represented by The Conservative Party
46% a good location for raising a family, putting it in the top 60% of the country.
Well Connected for public transport and wider road networking.
Large number of supermarkets and Convenience Stores nearby.
Good local amenities – including hairstylist EH Lifestyle.
Property Detective Rate the area: Good for Broadband and Local Council