The workshop

1 Cleve Workshops on Boundary Street in London was built in 1895. It is the first in a short row of compact single-storey units, tucked into a nook of the slum-supplanting red-brick Boundary Estate, and it is open a couple of days each week for the perusing and trying-on of garments.

English Heritage listed the workshop about twenty years ago. “Yellow brick, low pitched roof to eaves, and one storey,” is how they described it. “Wide door to the right, planked with upper part glazed. Above and to left of door further glazing; small panes, and glazing bars. Party walls project above the roofline between units. It is an integral part of the pioneering Boundary Estate.”

Things have changed little since, nor in the hundred-plus years since it was built. Apart from there now being two levels — neither which permit a full-size person to quite stand upright — the workshop is the same diminutive, north-facing box of brick it always was.

The upper floor of the workshop is the work part: for designing, finishing, packing, and so on. Downstairs is what could politely be called the shop part — and that’s where the garments are. Garments on pegs and garments on a rail or two. New garments and newer garments — sometimes garments made and finished and pressed at the factory that same day — here to be looked at, talked about, and tried on for size, whenever the lights are on.