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Haute Hackney: Spoof website lampoons gentrification plans

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James Pallister asks whether HackneyHaute.com is the work of satirical pranksters or particularly brazen placemaking?

The hackneyhaute.com website, an apparent vehicle for attracting investors, offers investors the chance ‘for the most daring brands in fashion to build on the area’s anti-social capital’.

The site, subtitled ‘Ghetto Chic’, presents a map and timeline of luxury brands (Cartier, Yves Saint Laurent etc)  they hope will soon arrive, clustering around London’s Hackney Central area. The site reminds visitors of Hackney’s status as ‘Home to the London College of Fashion, a throbbing art scene and some of the most thrilling drama of the recent riots’. The ‘Hackney Haute Quarter’ plans were tied to the announcement in the local paper of a (real) proposal for a Bicester-Village style fashion outlet (see AJ.28.02.13).

Cynical? Of course, but not beyond the realms of possibility. We excel in realising yesteryear’s satirical visions. There was, however, something about the amateur appearance made me smell a rat.

A quick email to ‘Press Queries’, congratulating them on their ruse, and a Dennis Thron replied: ‘Hackney Haute Quarter will present opportunities for retail and hospitality investment across the board. An introductory investor evening is expected for springtime and there has been considerable interest thus far.’

Hmm. Wasn’t marketing on the ‘reputation’ of the riots in poor taste, Dennis? Au contraire: ‘hackneyhaute.com is a feisty yet light-hearted attempt to push the positive possibilities of a difficult area. Our work in bringing much needed investment to this part of Hackney will undoubtedly serve to sweep away much of its unfortunate decay.’ Crikey!

Where next? These days it’s hard to know what’s a real piss-take and what’s a real piss-take pretending to be a piss-take. A quick search didn’t glean much for Dennis Thron, barring a gent in the 60-64 age range in Minnesota. But lacking a social media footprint doesn’t preclude material existence.

In the end it was the email client which blew it. A bit of sloppiness – or an intentional reveal? One of Dennis Thron’s emails was sent by ‘info@microsplash.org, on behalf of Hackney Haute Development’. MicroSplash’s tagline is: ‘The microsite is a polemical form to contest the essay.’ A lot of examples the MicroSplash site links to are smart and engaging; a new way of generating debate. I’m waiting to hear back from them; are they for or agin the reinvention of Hackney as a centre for luxury brands? I’m guessing it’s just the latter. And if it’s all covert marketing for MicroSplash, then it has worked. I’ve been played.

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