While the thought of last-minute Christmas shopping would usually strike fear into the bravest of hearts, there’s one place in London offering a different and much more pleasant experience to that of the frenetic British high street. Having thrown open its doors (or rather, its impressive wrought iron gates) in October, Coal Drops Yard lies at the heart of London’s King’s Cross and promises to become one of the city’s go-to shopping destinations.
As its name suggests, the space began life as a place where Victorian London’s coal was stored and distributed – now, home to a curated community of independent shops and boutiques, as well as a host of imaginative and exciting restaurants, bars, and cafes, sitting among the brick viaducts reimagined by architecture firm Heatherwick Studios. Think: Paul Smith, MHL by Margaret Howell and COS, alongside eateries Barrafina and Bodega Rita’s, among others.
It’s not just a heady dose of retail therapy, a cold glass of wine or a tiny plate of Michelin-starred tapas that the newly-opened space offers, though. As is the case with any destination where large numbers of stylish people congregate in London, Coal Drops Yard promises not only to be an excellent option should you be in the market for one of Tom Dixon’s extraordinarily fragranced candles or a pair of handcrafted optical frames from Cubitts, but is also the ideal place to languish over a lazy lunch and indulge in a spot of people watching: an activity photographer Alexander Coggin is pretty au fait with.
“The actual structure of [Coal Drops Yard] is amazing. It’s massive and so well done,” says Coggin of the space. The photographer was recently tasked with documenting some of the first visitors to make their way across the yard’s cobbles and begin their festive shopping. “There was lots going on. People walking around, going in and out of stores, stopping to eat. And kids running around everywhere, given there’s plenty of space for them to do so.”
With the backdrop of the yard adding a unique depth to the photographs he took, Coggin captured a diverse array of people going about their individual tasks. One man, faceless owing to the frame of the image, smiles slightly as he sips from a coffee cup, while a woman, apparently oblivious to his presence, is seen with her eyes closed as she enjoys a facial. Elsewhere, a pair of shoppers peruse a wall filled with design-led coffee table tomes, and another delicately clasps a rather uneven looking, brightly decorated pot – likely the result of one of the creative workshops Coal Drops Yard will also host on a regular basis.
“I was looking at what people were wearing and how they interacted with the products,” he says. “And I’m always looking out for people who seem like they won’t care when I shoot them. The ones who are generally ignoring me and my camera are the ones I am usually drawn to.” As well as going after a multitude of unwitting or otherwise unbothered subjects, Coggin noted one particularly appealing aspect of the yard’s setting: “It’s right on the edge of the canal, which you have direct access to. There’s a beautiful lock and a tonne of houseboats.”
Of course, we couldn’t end our conversation with Coggin without asking him what Coal Drops Yard-procured items he’d most like to wake up to on Christmas Day, or what he in turn would gift to someone special. “For me, it would have to be something from the STORE store, the in-house design school, and shop. They had some really interesting products, and they were running workshops the weekend I visited. Or a candle from bonds. would be epic, too. And when it comes to something for someone else, I think I’d make them something at STORE during one of their workshops.”
Coal Drops Yard is open now.