Rhiannon Harries: If Banksy were a west London Tory...

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

When I moved to east London a few years ago, I found tedious bus travel could be enlivened by spotting the efforts of various street artists in the area. Among those that made an impression were the seemingly random letters painted 10-feet tall in bright colours on shop shutters, appearing and disappearing Peekaboo-style according to opening hours. There wasn't much to them, but part of the pleasure of street art, and even less ambitious old-fashioned graffiti, is simply its unexpectedness.

But if the oversized alphabet comes as a nice surprise on an unassuming Hackney shopfront, finding it behind the glass of Knightsbridge boutique is more a mild shock. It appears that the man behind the typeface, Ben Eine, has now lent his talents to that purveyor of posh handbags and New Tory darling, Anya Hindmarch, emblazoning her wares with tongue-in-cheek slogans such as "loot" and "booty".

If Eine's art has any sort of political bent, even a lame Banksy-ish expression of discontent, it's not apparent, so perhaps the hook-up is not unnatural. But it rather confirms the suspicion that most of the urban artists who reach a wider public are dabbling, Marie Antoinette-style, on the streets of Hackney until they can cash in and buy a house in Holland Park.

On Hindmarch's part it looks like a neat piece of Tory rebranding. After fetishising the canvas bag as a green status symbol with her "I'm not a plastic bag" shopper, Hindmarch is out to prove that you can appreciate all things gritty and urban without leaving W1. I wonder if Mrs Thatcher, a hero of the designer and the inspiration for a fair amount of graffiti in her day, would approve?

Cupcake? Non, merci

The reign of the cupcake as fashionable nibble of choice is over – a foodie friend informs me that henceforth it's all about the French macaroon. A comestible cipher for the demise of the "special relationship", perhaps? Either way, it's bad news for the endless parade of faces in glossy magazines extolling the joys of leaving careers in finance to set up boutique cupcake companies. Good news, though, for anyone who agrees the last thing you want with a glass of wine, or even a cup of tea, is an overblown pile of coloured icing sugar.

Cruise control

Seemingly the last non-cyclist in London, I'm often trailing in friends' wake as they zip off to the next pub and I take twice the time on foot. This week I was sorely tempted by a beautiful Liberty-print bicycle that is part of the store's bargain range with US chain Target. Fortunately someone kindly pointed out that it's a cruiser and, given the lack of hand brakes, probably not ideal for London roads. It was pretty enough to just wheel around, but I reluctantly conceded it wouldn't do much to improve my walking speed.

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