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Drakes new HQ fits the bill

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Crittall windows restore light and 1930s chic in a refurbished headquarters for upmarket manufacturer of gentlemen’s accessories, Drakes

According to its website, high-end gentlemen’s accessories manufacturer Drakes aims to concentrate on the ‘V area’. For the uninitiated in men’s couture, that’s the bit between ‘jacket collar and lapel, shirt collar and tie’. Since 1977, when the London-based firm was founded by Michael Drake, it’s been turning out handmade ties and handkerchiefs for the debonair and well-heeled, but with its store in Mayfair and workshops in the Rotherhithe, the owners obviously felt a little too much of their own footwork coming into play.

  • Drakes' scarves and ties.
    Drakes' scarves and ties. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Drakes showroom.
    Drakes showroom. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Workrooms
    Workrooms Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Drakes exterior.
    Drakes exterior. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • The refurbished building.
    The refurbished building. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Building detail.
    Building detail. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Apartment living area.
    Apartment living area. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Apartment kitchen.
    Apartment kitchen. Credit: Tim Crocker
  • Administration area.
    Administration area. Credit: Tim Crocker

Thank heavens then, for the former factory that they found in the aptly-named Haberdashers St on the fringes of the Square Mile, where the remains of the rag trade now sidles up to blue chip start-ups, and which finds itself situated in the ‘happening’ East End edge, with the journey over to the W1 a short jaunt away. Architect Hawkins\Brown was charged with the refurbishment of this specific ‘V Area’ – a corner site for incorporating new workshops for the brand, admin offices, factory shop, and nine apartments above. The architect stripped the 4,320m2, six-storey 1930s building back to its concrete frame while retaining key existing features, such as the caged lift and stairwell balustrades, porthole windows, concrete canopies and even the original clock on the street frontage. The firm also designed the oversized pendant disc lights, which, along with the bespoke designed worktables, help to unify the internal spaces.

The functions within the building include workshops where people hand-make ties, requiring a lot of natural light

The building had undergone some insensitive upgrade works in the past – namely uPVC windows to replace the original steel frames – which Hawkins\Brown was keen to put right. As part of a £350,000 contract, steel window manufacturer Crittall was charged with replacing a system that had obliterated the elegant curves of the building’s ‘prow’ with the its Corporate W20 window. ‘It seemed a natural decision to choose steel windows as these would have been installed originally,’ says Hawkins\Brown partner Nicola Rutt. ‘The functions within the building include workshops where people hand-make ties, requiring a lot of natural light.’ Once installed, the steel frames, with their more slender profile, obviously improved internal light levels. They were also specified on the top two residential floors, where the windows are fitted with acoustic ventilation to meet Parts E&F of the Building regulations.

This ‘Back to the Future’ refurbishment of its new HQ marks a new period for the firm; certainly its decision to create a residential component above the works not only brings a welcome sense of recent past industry back to the area, but is based in prudent financial thinking. And the ‘old look’ would seem to suit Drakes, whose website has a peculiarly retro twist to it. Here you’ll find pearls of sartorial wisdom that one feels should be heeded for any potential extras role in an episode of ‘Made in Chelsea’. Remember, boys, ‘never puff up a white linen hank’ and ‘make sure your cufflinks do not resemble Byzantine coffin lids’. But most important of all, despite Drakes’ newly restored nautical modernist aesthetic, ‘the idea is not to look like you have just arrived on the boat from Naples.’ For the MiC’s international playboy Mark-Francis Vandelli, one might swap the word ‘boat’ for ‘yacht’ – but he should consider himself warned.


Address: 3 Haberdasher Street, Hackney, London

Gross internal area: 4,320 sq m

Client: Drake’s London

Architects: Hawkins\Brown

Contractor: Gilbert Ash

Structural Engineer: Heyne Tillett Steel

Services Engineer: Chapman Bathurst

Quantity Surveyor: Jackson Coles

Project Manager: Jackson Coles

Photos: © Tim Crocker

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