‘Hackney Road has long been important to my family,’ explains Sim Takhar, whose grandfather ran and operated a small shoe factory on the street from 1975 until 1990. ‘He worked his way up in the footwear industry to eventually supplying the likes of Barratts and Fenwick.’
Today, Takhar’s new concept store is located half a mile to the east on the very same road where her grandfather started his business in the 70s. Opened in June 2017, The Old Bank Vault has breathed new life into 283 Hackney Road, a store-cum-warehouse previously leased by her parents, the owners of shoe brand London Rebel.
‘Number 283 was acquired by my parents in 2000 when I was 12 years old, and as a result my siblings and I spent many of our school holidays there helping mum and dad out answering phones and labelling shoeboxes. It was here that I really started to appreciate how awesome it was to be growing up in London.’
With strong family ties to Hackney Road, and having spent so much of her childhood there, it’s perhaps no surprise Takhar has become the third generation of her family to pick it as the place to run a business. However, The Old Bank Vault marks a breakaway from her family’s footwear history. The versatile concept store and gallery space is filled with art, fashion, design pieces and beautiful artificial flowers – which triggered the idea for the business in the first place.
‘My mum had been toying with the idea of opening a flower shop, and during a trip to China to develop the next season’s range for London Rebel, we took a day out to buy some artificial flowers. We came back with a 20-foot container and nowhere to house them other than my family home. With the tenancy up for renewal and the flowers in storage it just seemed to be the perfect time to renovate the old warehouse to create the space that we had always dreamed of.’
The Old Bank Vault is a result of Takhar and her parents combined passions, with eye-catching art from a mix of local artists and designers. ‘I spend a lot of time going to art fairs and opening nights to find people we could potentially collaborate or work with,’ explains Takhar. ‘It is our ethos to work with independents and support emerging as well as established artists.’
For the launch of the new space, all the art has a distinct London vibe. ‘It felt natural to keep with the London theme for the launch, so we chose the artists for their portraits of London icons from musicians to architectural monuments.’ Works on display include Swarovski crystal portraits by east London artist San B, typographical illustration by London-based designer and artist Lana Hughes and hand-drawn maps of London by Icelandic artist and Central Saint Martins graduate Kristjana S Williams.
In addition to the art, The Old Bank Vault has a room devoted to beautiful artificial flowers, fashion, accessories and homeware, offering customers a full range of lifestyle products. However, the space isn’t only a gallery, a store and a florist; Takhar is keen to ensure it acts as a community centre.
‘We already have an array of events lined up such as Meditation Mondays where you can kick off the week by resting and de-stressing, or an evening of meeting one of our featured artists and having the opportunity to buy a signed limited-edition print and enjoy music and drinks. We plan to have some fantastic poets in for poetry slams as well as curated tours by well-known curators based in and around London.’
Ultimately the goal of The Old Bank Vault is to add to the eclectic mix of Hackney Road, starting a new chapter in the building’s story. ‘As I grew up and experienced the drastic change of the East End, I became more attached to the idea of making something of the old London Rebel premises.
‘As much as I am all for the gentrification of London and making it a better place than it already is, there are people who have lived in and around Hackney Road for years. I very much want them to feel a part of what we are trying to achieve here.’
The Old Bank Vault, 283 Hackney Road, London E2 8NA, +44 (0)20 7012 1210