In an ongoing series, we’re asking members of the global DUFFY team and friends of the brand to reveal their favorite spots in cities around the world. At our UK headquarters in London, our offices are located in the vibrant, multicultural neighborhood of Camden Town. DUFFY Sales and Marketing Director, Ray Barron, offers dining and drinking destinations, along with the fascinating history of this changing area. He also makes the case for the neighborhood where he lives, West Kensington, as a hidden gem.
How would you describe Camden Town, the London neighborhood where DUFFY’s United Kingdom showroom is located?
The easy way to describe Camden Town is a complete melting pot. If it's alternative, handmade, vintage, retro, antique, classic, funky, ethnic (I could go on), chances are, you can find it here in Camden Town, well the markets anyway. Thousands of visitors head to Camden Town every weekend for a complete immersion in varying levels of retail. It's allegedly the most concentrated place in London to search for original and unusual merchandise from hundreds of independent stall holders, designer-makers, and market shops. Camden High Street is lined with shoe stores, leather shops, and vintage clothing and vinyl store.
Both visitors and Londoners think it's still a cool place to hang out, making it busy all the time and heaving all weekend. Most of the main shops are open every day so there's always plenty to see and buy. But if you really want to see the stall sellers in action, Sunday is the busiest and best day.
A little bit of history: Camden Town stands on land that was once the manor of Sir Charles Pratt, a radical 18th-century lawyer and politician, who acquired the manor through marriage. In 1791, he started granting leases for houses to be built in the area. In 1816, the Regent's Canal was built through the area. The many Camden Markets started in 1973 and have grown so popular since then.
What are some of your favorite places to eat and drink in Camden Town? What are some must-see sites for visitors?
The best place to eat without a doubt is Rudy’s Dirty Vegan Diner, serving up mouth-watering American comfort foods, vegan style. You'll spot classic Americana dishes reaching from The Dirty Burger to the Mac'n'Cheez, without forgetting their staple (and highly recommended) Reuben Sandwich. At their bigger and better location, only a couple leg stretches from their old home includes more seating and best of all, sugar-filled milkshakes. Elasticated waist trousers are a must after eating here! Within Camden Market there is The Stables where you can find all sorts of street food.
Drink? It has to be FEST in the summer. Taking over the 200-year-old horse hospital in Camden Stables Market, it’s a nifty hybrid bar-restaurant-club offering everything from club nights to singalong parties, roof top cinema, bingo nights, and cabaret. At the cooler time of year try the Edinboro Castle. Combining the best in British pub hospitality with individuality, character, and quirky charm, the Edinboro Castle sits between Camden’s lively markets and leafy Regent’s Park. Whether you’re looking for a lazy lunch, post-work get-together, or social eats with friends, there is a genuine, welcoming atmosphere to suit all occasions.
What neighborhood do you live in and why do you love it?
West Kensington. Just a tiny bit more history: The whole of the Kensington area was originally a Saxon settlement, and by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 the manor was being run by key nobleman Aubrey de Vere I. It remained a minor rural manor until the 16th century, when Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor Thomas More built Beaufort House on the river in nearby Chelsea. Other nobleman began to flock to the area and built grand houses and palaces all along the Thames. Aristocracy followed, as did the king himself in the late 17th century, and the area became known for its affluence and beautiful properties.
West Kensington still remains a little misunderstood. Tucked into a small gap between the well-known names of Hammersmith, Fulham, and Shepherd’s Bush, it’s taken many years for West Kensington to establish itself with a distinct identity separate from all the nearby hotspots. It’s known for generously proportioned apartments in attractive Victorian terraces and local gastropubs, quirky shops, and other amenities that have gradually spilled out of Kensington and Chelsea. With French and Spanish private schools popping up in recent years it’s also become more popular with European families, although the majority of residents are still singles, couples and families. A short walk from Holland Park and the River Thames and a 20-minute commute by Underground to Central London make this an ideal area. Fresh veg and fruit markets locally and the ever-increasing food pop-ups and local fringe theatres make this a great place to live and I won’t hear anything else said!
Choose a piece from the current DUFFY collection that seems most representative of Camden Town and tell us why.
I would say the scoop neck pullover with open stitch back in black. It’s perfect for layering in the fall season, and is a slight nod to the punk music era which was centered around Camden many moons ago. Talking of layers, this is exactly what Camden is made up of layers upon layers of culture—as I said at the beginning, the ultimate melting pot.