Why we have to say goodbye to our beautiful bohemian street

Vintage clothes seller to depart historic Camden Passage after facing rent hike

Friday, 11th February — By Charlotte Chambers

Annie Moss IMG_2651

Annie Moss outside Annie’s, which is closing March 20

A BIG player in the vintage clothes scene in “heritage street” Camden Passage is leaving after 50 years’ trading.

Annie Moss of Annie’s clothing store – which over the years has seen the likes of supermodel Kate Moss and fashion designers John Galliano and Alexander McQueen raid the rails – said a rent hike had forced her to move.

Ms Moss, who moved into the shop in 2001 but has been in the street since 1970, said there has been an exodus of independent and creative shopkeepers from the pretty, pedestrianised street over the past decade – and it was more common to see restaurants and cafes moving in.

She will reopen her business from her home in nearby Allingham Street after her last day of trading in Camden Passage which is scheduled for March 19.

Ms Moss said: “In other cities in Europe they are careful of their retail. Landlords [here] are allowed to do what they like.”

She left art college in 1970 and went straight into running one of the street’s first vintage markets with her first husband.

“Opposite the Camden Head was this empty space, plus a tiny shop which is now a flower shop,” Ms Moss said.

“That’s where I did my first vintage clothes [shop] when they became fashionable in the 70s.

“We got stalls made and let them for £2 a day [for other stallholders to run].”

But she said the days when the street saw a more bohemian way of life have ended, blaming the “encroachment” of clone shops and the rising rents.

The well-known Pierrepont antiques market is still running and busy, but the iconic Tramshed, known as the Mall Antiques Arcade, which housed 35 independent antiques traders, closed down in the early 2000s; more recently it became an Amazon grocery store which operates without cashiers.

Another indoor antiques market, the Georgian Village, closed down in 2005 when it was taken over by the clothing store Reiss.

Labour councillor Martin Klute, the chair of the planning committee and a local councillor for 16 years, has lived in the area for 30 years.

He said the area had become “more St Christopher’s Place [an upmarket street off Oxford Street] than Notting Hill” but warned that the current government was “ripping to shreds” planning policies.

“It’s a shame, but the wind is not blowing our way,” he said, adding that there was a “drip, drip, drip” of antiques shops going which was “disappointing”.

But Cllr Klute said a mix of different kind of shops was needed in the area, and highlighted the example of Marylebone High Street which is owned by what he described as one “benevolent” landlord who he said had carefully curated who moved in.

Gary Field, an agent working on behalf of Ms Moss’s landlord, Islington Benwell, said only one of their shops is currently for rent, and defended the rates being charged

He said: “Obviously the agreements are for specific fixed terms. Tenants have vacated but shops have been re-let over the same period.

“It’s a private matter and we respect client and tenant confidentiality. We reveived a notice to quit which came as a surprise.”

Mr Field said “we do have a suitable mix” of eateries and shops in Camden Passage. “I think we have reflected the market changes and trends,” he added.

Annie’s will reopen in Allingham Street on March 30.

Tough going for independents

Penny Ross

A VINTAGE clothes shop owner has begged Islington Council to do more to promote her Angel street, warning she has seen “too many” businesses come and go since she moved in ten years ago, writes Charlotte Chambers.

Penny Ross of Pennies in Amwell Street said she has seen half a dozen independent businesses move on after “they couldn’t make a go of it here” – and called on the Town Hall to promote her “forgotten street”.

She said: “It’s such a beautiful street and it’s surely what the capital needs – a street which is full of independent vibrant shops. But because we don’t get any help from anybody within the council, nobody knows we’re here. In the time I’ve been here, I must have seen five or six businesses just come go.”

Amwell Street is known locally for having unusual and quirky shops.

Businesses to have left the street since she started trading in 2008 are flower shop Botanique, which moved to nearby Exmouth Market; a sustainable greengrocers; a wedding dress shop, as well as a stationery shop called Quill, which moved to Marylebone before closing for good last month.

Ms Ross used to have a stall in Camden Passage in Angel – known for antiques – but left after her rent was hiked.

A council spokesperson said: “We are committed to strengthening Islington’s high streets and town centres. Through campaigns and projects such as Shop Local, Covid-Safe Business Awards, Small Business Saturday (as well as various grant schemes), we have and continue to encourage people in the borough to spend their money at small, local businesses.

“This week, we launched three new grant schemes, targeted at supporting businesses worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We encourage businesses on Amwell Street to apply for a Town Centre Fund grant (closing date is Friday February 11, 11.59pm) if they have ideas for helping the high street to recover.”

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