13 years ago in October 2006, I arrived at the gates of my grey student halls in South London, all four members of my family laboriously pushing/dragging an over-stuffed black nylon bag each (an invention that caused a nation-wide sensation across South Korea in the 50’s: these collapsible nylon suitcases that expanded from a flat to an XXL luggage contraption with wheels, used for practically EVERYTHING, including moving entire households) (my grandma may have used it as a pram for my mum at some point…) up the hill that peeled off the high street.
What a ‘high street’ is, was precisely the type of information this pre-Google teen was forced to find out, as was the notion that the Queen’s guard did not police the streets in bearskin caps, and that Big Ben was not always gleaming in the horizon. The part about the abundance of tea however, was exactly as I’d imagined.
“Eventually the street had become the geographical spine to my professional career and where my fondness for sartorial expression was nurtured.”
Within the first month I learned that London was where triangle sandwiches were invented/born/worshipped, and that double decker buses don’t tip over turning left at an intersection – but not because I leaned to the right with all might every time I sat in one, terrified. I bought my first A-Z map in search of the most regal-sounding street, and landed on Regent Street. Of course, it took me at least a year to find out that the street connected Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, and that I really didn’t need to descend to the Bakerloo line to get to either. I frequented the café at Brasserie Zédel (also a handsome spot to take visiting family) with a book to escape the reality that was my single-pane dorm room that smelled like cabbages no matter how many tuna pasta microwave bakes this poor student conjured up.
In the ensuing years, my relationship with the street thickened and morphed. Once an escape, after graduation I practically blasted my CV out of a t-shirt cannon to companies up and down Regent Street, and in later years I figuratively swung from it on jobs and missions as one would a jungle vine, from Soho to St James’s. Now, I’m on first name basis with the staff at Thomas’s Cafe at Burberry from hosting back-to-back meetings each week, consider Hotel Café Royal a second home (the pool at Akasha Spa is also my (not very well-kept) secret during the summer). aqua kyoto is where I first saw the street from above, and realised it was precisely the regality I was looking for when I needed the inspiration. Eventually the street had become the geographical spine to my professional career and where my fondness for sartorial expression was nurtured via cultural events, learnt my ABC’s of fashion (Heritage at Aquascutum, festival gear at Barbour, Nordic escape at COS…) and where I indulged in guilty pleasure mid-season sale purchases.
Named after George, the Prince Regent (later George IV), and designed by John Nash and James Burton, Regent Street (est. 1819) turns 200 years this year. Constructed primarily to be furnished as a purpose-built retail street laid out in broad, architecturally distinguished boulevards and public spaces, the street reportedly served as stomping grounds to regular visitors from the arts, literary and science societies such as Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and the Lumière Brothers; Ziggy Stardust famously hails of 23 Heddon Street, and bands such as The Beatles and Queen are remembered to have performed live concerts at Broadcasting House at the top of Regent Street. Evidently, throughout the two centuries of existence it determined to be not only a destination for commerce, but of culture—I could not be more grateful for the latest 13 years I’ve experienced so far.
This article is a celebration and an ode to the street that provided abundant comfort and inspiration without fail, and helped shape my London career so far. The story of Regent Street is a rather fascinating one; one that holds such texture in the history and symmetry of past and the present – do make sure to read more about the 200 years of journey.
art direction & words SHINI PARK
production CUBE COLLECTIVE & TCS
project management ANNA HOLMFELD