Hackney entrepreneurs help create innovative pop-up shop for project designed to ‘bring high street back to life’

Justine Simons OBE (centre, blue dress), London’s deputy mayor for culture and creative industries, with London Made Me participants. Photograph: Eleanor Bentall

There is still time for a Christmas shop at a unique pop-up shop launched in the space of four weeks by 14 entrepreneurs who had never met before.

The London Made Me project took businesses, including a few from Hackney, through a pilot retail initiative that teaches them how to create a temporary shop.

The shop they have built together at 59-61 Regent Street has been open since November and closes on Tuesday.

It has everything from sustainable clothes and jewellery to artwork and handmade ceramics.

The project is funded by the Greater London Authority as part of a scheme designed to impart skills that will help entrepreneurs sell their wares on a high street in the future.

One participant is Bleur, an art dealership selling work by artists from Hackney, Brixton and Tottenham.

Founder Aurelia Islimye said the scheme has been incredibly useful: “The training taught us how to go about securing the right space for the art that you sell, and working with vendors and other third parties to get into these spaces.”

Bleur currently relies on collaborations with existing shops to showcase its artworks. It has also hosted events in homes or studios.

Bleur artists Nicole Chui, Eva Merendes, Sabrina Brouwers with founder Aurelia Islimye. Photograph: Eleanor Bentall

Islimye said: “It was very interesting to learn about designing a space. Securing the space is one thing, but it can be in bad shape when you move in.”

She sang the praises of the course’s design teacher, who has previously worked with Lush and other big brands.

“It was really interesting how she approached spaces,” Islimye explained. “She also helped us design a space with coherence in it. It wasn’t a space of 14 creatives, it was a London Made Me collective.”

She added: “There are lots of empty spaces of the high street. Most of us creatives cannot afford the rent of high street vendors.

“The training teaches us how to take over the spaces in between tenancies and work with landlords to bring the high street back to life.”

The 14 participants in the pilot come from all over London, and a few businesses from Hackney feature, including womenswear brand Francesca Castellano, illustrator Iiello Uwaoma, House of Aten ceramics, and sustainable fashion firm The Dyás.

The project is directed by Alice Mayor who founded We Built This City, a shop that sells London souvenirs and gifts made exclusively by London artists.

London Crown Estates provided the space in Regent Street for the project – the first of its kind led by the Greater London Authority.

Islimye said: “We have to be mindful that currently a lot of people are struggling so the pop-up itself has not been as busy as we’d hoped.

“But we have had quite a few people down to visit, and the project itself has attracted lots of people.”