In between crossing a few errands off my list and catching up on homework, I took a trip back over to Brixton to go thrift shopping. This weekend, Brixton Vintage had its monthly “Kilo Sale,” wherein you can score a kilo of clothes for £15.
When I left the house, I was absolutely starving. So I made a quick stop at Prêt à Manger to fuel up.
Then I rode all the way to the end of the Victoria line to get to Brixton. With the Tube’s unique art fresh in my mind, I made notes of the little histories contained in its tiles. All of the art is so distinct and striking that my brain has already latched onto pattern associations with certain stops. I could look at any of the art on the Victoria line and tell you what stop it belongs to.
The kilo sale was taking place at Pop Brixton. When I hit “interested” on the Facebook event, I did so for the pure novelty of a kilo sale (from my American perspective) and my genuine love for thrifting. It wasn’t until I was hashing out the practicalities of going to this event that the implications of its location struck a chord with me.
Obviously, I don’t have a problem with Brixton. I absolutely love it and all of its history. I do have a problem with gentrification, however.
You can find the little enclave of food stands and clothing shops tucked away behind Brixton Tube station: past family-run nail salons and an Eritrean joint and past the neighborhood’s community centre. You’ll know it when you see it. There will be scores of people on the corner dressed in Unif boots and cheetah print and rolled beanies, rocking silver hair and septum piercings and lace-up bodysuits and Moto jackets.
Bypassing all of the mom-and-pop places for this hipster vortex felt a little dirty to me.
On its website, Pop Brixton explains it is a temporary project, turning “disused land into a creative space for local, independent businesses.”
Yet, as Ciaran Thapar put it in the New Statesman, “While self-identifying as a ‘community project’ and doing well to host various Lambeth-based social enterprises in its Impact Hub, Pop still fails to attract crowds that reflect the diversity of the local area.”
I did see a smattering of other brown people in Pop Brixton. Maybe one or two alongside me in thrifting trenches. But in the grand scheme of it all, I saw too few for a market in a borough known to be the heart of London’s Afro-Caribbean community.
And that’s the thing about becoming aware (becoming woke!) to social justice issues. You can’t just be basic and snag a really fabulous furry jacket or floral crop top on a Sunday afternoon without thinking of the larger implications of the act. On one hand, you are helping small businesses and you are practicing sustainability in fashion. But at what cost to the social and cultural fabric (no pun intended) of the community?
As a social justice warrior and a lover of indie culture, navigating hipster hangouts is definitely a balancing act to master.