New Hoxton home for silk tie maker Drake's brings stylish new flats

When Drake’s silk tie business took over a derelict Hoxton factory it revitalised the area, creating a new workspace, a shop and jobs, plus rental homes above to help pay for the project.
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Feel the quality: Drake’s shop in Haberdasher Street, Hoxton. Click the image to take a tour of Drake's industrial building in Hoxton.


The jumble of old industrial buildings in Hoxton sits among Victorian tenements, 20th-century council housing, stylish new flats, ancient churches and quirky rooftop homes. Hoxton’s arty transformation throws up something new all the time.
 
Two years ago, Drake’s, a renowned silk tie maker, was stuck in a cramped and run-down factory in nearby Clerkenwell, with no shop of its own. Now it has a new location, with a bright factory workspace, a stylish shop and there are nine flats above, all thanks to a collaboration with architects Hawkins\Brown.
 
The project has been an object lesson in how to re-use an old building, reinvigorate the street it sits in and provide new homes and jobs.
 
Drake’s started in 1977 when designer Michael Drake, who invented Aquascutum’s signature house check, set up on his own. In the Seventies most men wore ties and they were often flamboyant. Maverick and romantic, Drake’s handmade scarves, silk ties and pocket squares, always made in the UK, were sold from New York to Tokyo.
 
Drake retired in 2010, selling the company to businessman Mark Cho — who co-owned The Armoury haberdashery in Hong Kong — and former Drake’s head designer Michael Hill.
 
Earlier that year, Cho had been shown a derelict factory at Haberdasher Street on Hoxton’s edge as a possible development project. Here was the perfect place to relocate Drake’s - the only problem was what to do with the rest of the sizeable building. Cho’s investments director, Jonathan Jui, says Hawkins\Brown was recommended to them. Together, they approached Hackney planners with the idea of creating nine residential units to rent to help fund the project. The planners wanted to preserve the factory outside, but the interior could be altered.
 
Now restored, the Thirties five-storey building looks like the brick-and-glass prow of a ship, an effect helped by a line of original large porthole windows down one side, and new curved Crittall windows.
 
The prow juts from one end of Haberdasher Street, once part of the East End rag trade with workshops in its Arts & Crafts mansion blocks, but until recently, badly declined. Inside and out, the style of Drake’s new HQ is all of a Thirties piece, with clean lines, a simple palette of white, grey and parquet, and buckets of light.
 
On the ground floor is the stylish factory shop, with big industrial windows and beautiful arrays of ties, sweaters, silk squares and scarves in glowing silks and fine wool, some in retro cases and regimentally neat.
 
The production floor is divided from the shop by modern versions of old “counting house” windows, maximizing light. Industrial hanging lamps add to the look, which is bright, clean, and spacious. From the street, you can see people working at sewing machines with rainbow spools of silks, or sliding ties into cellophane sleeves.
 
On the next floor up, bolts of rippling silk are examined for flaws, then hand-cutters use scissors and cardboard patterns. You’d be surprised how much silk goes into one tie. More people hand-stitch ties, some of which are hand-rolled. The design studio is here, too.
 
Drake’s makes an astonishing 2,000 ties a week, many sold in its Clifford Street showroom off Savile Row, opened in 2011. Others are sold in the new factory shop for £65 each.
 
The third floor is let to a tech company, while the top two floors are residential, with the same, clean-lined, “English” ethos of parquet floors, Edwardian-style bathroom tiles, and simple design classics such as Eames chairs.
 
Mark Cho’s sister is an interior designer and worked with Hawkins\Brown on a unified style. All the apartments are now rented out and Drake’s directors live in two of them - that’s the sort of commute to work we would all love.  Photographs: Tim Crocker, Hawkins\Brown

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