North Laine, Brighton England
Written by Karen Martin Illustration by Marion Vitus
Quintessentially Brighton, the North Laine area is a colourful, vibrant area with a rich mixture of people and history. It is home to a lively and bohemian jumble of small independent shops, along with some great cafés, pubs, and markets.
Original clothes, shoes, and accessories are a North Laine specialty; and, as Director of Brighton Fashion Week, Liz Bishop knows her way around Brighton’s secret gems. “A perfect day in Brighton, for me, would start at coffee@33 on Trafalgar Street, a really cool little coffee place that’s great for people-watching and reading the papers,” she says. “It’s got a massive window, so get a window seat and just watch the people walking past: all of the quirky faces and unusual sorts! There’s also a great café on Kensington Gardens called Idyea that does some really nice, wholesome vegan and vegetarian food,” she adds.
If you want to take a slice of East Sussex home with you, head to North Road, to a place called Farm, which is where local farmers and people around the area come and sell their produce. “They might have honey they’ve made from their own bees, or have cheeses that you can try, and so on, and they are often on the stalls themselves to talk to you about their products,” explains Liz.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to Brighton without experiencing the eclectic fashion it is renowned for. “I like to go round all the vintage shops,” says Liz, “and my pick around here would be Hope & Harlequin on Sydney Street, but they’re quite expensive – so I might go in there and mooch around the dresses but not buy anything,” she adds. “You can get some really beautiful one-of-a-kind vintage pieces and they really source their outfits, which is why they charge what they do. But I’d probably buy from Wolf & Gypsy next door, which is more affordable. But there are lots of quirky little vintage shops all the way through North Laine,” she says.
Indeed, North Laine is a treasure trove of vintage, retro, and kitsch goodies, and for the real bargains Upper Gardner Street has a flea market on Saturdays, bustling with people at random stalls selling things they don’t want, haggling with people who do.
A more permanent fixture along the same lines as a flea market is Snooper’s Paradise on Kensington Gardens. “You could easily walk past because it looks a bit funny from the outside,” says Liz, “but venture in and it’s an Aladdin’s cave of bric-a-brac, and if you search carefully you can find some really cool things.”
When it’s time to put your feet up, head to The Dorset on the corner of North Street and Gardner Street. “This is another favourite haunt of mine,” says Liz. “You get quite a European feel in there; in the winter you can sit inside by the fire, and in the summer you can sit outside and watch the world go by.
“To end the day I’d go to Pavilion Gardens, a beautiful old-fashioned park in the city, where you can always find a tree to chill out under, read a book and just take in the fresh sea air.”
Liz Bishop created Brighton Frocks seven years ago, starting as a one-day catwalk event showcasing Brighton’s fashion design talent. It expanded to become Brighton Fashion Week last year. “When I started Brighton Frocks it gained a cult following,” says Liz. “Then it just grew and grew. I thought about making it a weekend, then thought, 'why not make it a week?'”
Brighton Fashion Week runs from May 31 to June 5, 2011.