BoomBox: The London club that inspired a fashion phenomenon

It's an intimate club in the East End. So why are so many of the hottest names at London Fashion Week regulars?
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The Independent Online

Fashion isn't meant to be inclusive. Yet for the past 15 months, a free-entry club in London's East End called BoomBox has symbolised a new surge of creativity that has reawakened London's fashion set. The buzz names on this week's London Fashion Week schedule – Giles Deacon, Gareth Pugh, Kim Jones, Henry Holland, Cassette Playa – are all regulars.

But just as important is a swelling list of club kids who, each Sunday, grasp the opportunity to get dolled up in their finery and get giddy on the dancefloor. Naomi Campbell, Lindsay Lohan and Kelly Osborne may all have dropped in, but BoomBox isn't serious, posey or full of egos; it's fun, inclusive and unpretentious. Every week is an event, but crucially it's a club with open arms. It's this spirit that has been captured in a limited-edition (1,200 copies) BoomBox book, full of photos by the likes of Wolfgang Till- mans and Johnnie Shand Kydd, published just in time for fashion week.

For too long, London fashion has felt frail. There has been a strange dichotomy that sees our colleges produce some of the world's best designers – Galliano, McQueen et al – yet our fashion weeks have been so lame that few international buyers or reporters even bothered to attend. This is the case no more. Compared with the more money-minded shows held in New York, Milan and Paris, London has a renewed creative vigour which is being recognised the world over. And some credit for this must be given to BoomBox. The fashion ethos there is simple: if all else is luxury brands, don't try and compete – be different, be brilliant on your own terms, create something out of nothing and feed off the sense of community surrounding you.

This hasn't come from nowhere. Most of the designers making news in London live or work in the East End, where BoomBox has its home. Say the word Hoxton and it can cause groans, but the people with the directional haircuts and secret trust funds à la Channel 4's Nathan Barley have long since moved on. Emerging instead is a gently odd-ball scene based around down-at-heel pubs where designers, artists, photographers and whoever else rub shoulders. At number one Hackney Road the pub there called The George and Dragon feels like fashion's own Rovers Returns. The designers and the locals who inspire them now have natural places to congregate. Trends may still switch quickly, but London fashion has finally set some solid foundations.

BoomBox is the brainchild of 27-year-old Richard Mortimer, an unassuming hairdresser-turned-impresario who is a winning mix of gentle and decisive. It's his third club in the area, with Golf Sale and Family doing the groundwork in the years before. When Mortimer debuted BoomBox in June 2006, it was an instant smash. By that autumn's Fashion Week, it had become an international sensation. In February this year, a plane-load of 50 BoomBox regulars were jetted out just to do their thing and add a touch of glamour at Milan Fashion Week.

The internet has helped unfold the BoomBox world, with photographer Alistair Allan posting pictures each week of the revellers on his website, Something that comes through in them are the smiles. There is nothing arch about this set-up – everyone is there for a good time.

If you want to go to BoomBox tonight, you'll be lucky. It is serving as the after-party for the Gareth Pugh show and it will be rammed. Much about Pugh mirrors the club – the designer lived in squats to produce shows way beyond his means, long before he could afford to put his clothes into production. It's this conviction that gives both designer and club their authenticity, and makes them both much loved. Who knows if our Pugh and his associates can ever turn this into a long-term business. Maybe it's their lot just to inspire others with their shambolic daring. That somehow seems part of the risk. What matters is they're having fun right now.

'BoomBox', £45, is published by Richard Mortimer and is available at and Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover Street, W1 from tomorrow. BoomBox, Sundays at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, 2 Hoxton Square, London N1. Charlie Porter is associate editor of GQ