UK retail is under pressure. This indie store is bucking the trend

“Harry is a visionary. He has got such an eye for what people respond to well in the market, so I wanted to be involved with that,” says designer Priya Ahluwalia, who has worked with Htown on sales since launching her eponymous label. “Htown offers something unique because it’s so intimate. You get really direct contact with Harry and his team; they go out of their way to support clients to find what they need.” 

Unique charity deal

In its previous incarnation as part of Ace Hotel (which closed in 2020), the retail space housed pop-ups for Opening Ceremony, JW Anderson and Christopher Kane’s More Joy brand. Htown has struck a unique deal with One Hundred Shoreditch’s owner Lore Group. Rather than pay rent or even a commission of sales, Htown makes a monthly donation of £1,000 to two charities selected by the hotel — Refuge, a domestic abuse organisation for women and children, and Spitalfields Crypt Trust, which supports recovery from addiction and homelessness.

The relationship between One Hundred Shoreditch and Htown evolved organically, according to Lore Group’s marketing director Ashleigh Lasry. “Harry Fisher is a Shoreditch local and has been part of our community from launch,” she explains. “Community connection is key for us, as well as providing a location to support the local burgeoning and established creative talent. Htown reflects this ethos and strikes the perfect balance of supporting creativity while developing commercial opportunities with the designers they work with.” 

Fisher sees Htown acting as an inclusive “community hub” that gives back. “AGR [a knitwear brand] previously teamed up with the Metropolitan Police to bring in kids off the street and teach them about upcycling. We’re looking to repeat something like that,” he explains. Saul Nash, the 2022 winner of the Woolmark Prize and Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design, who often includes dance and choreography in his runway shows, will host a movement workshop in the space. Htown will also host a charity sale with donations from luxury and fashion brands.

As Htown grows, Fisher intends to keep tight control. “We’re not going to be stocking 50 brands by the end of next year,” he insists. His hope is to develop new ways of supporting emerging designers. In the future, that might involve launching an incubator programme or expanding agency services to support foreign brands entering new markets, he says. 

Htown may also look beyond the UK at some point. Fisher says his priority would most likely be New York or Los Angeles. But, when it does, it’ll be achieved in a low key and organic way, he insists, highlighting again the need to build a community. “It’s all about connecting in person.”

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