Affairs

Fair point: Why gentrified is…justified.

LONDON — Gentrification: A touchy subject. Depending on who you happen to be sharing a meal with, your bringing it up could spark a very messy food fight — especially if drinks are involved. Pro tip: You’re probably best to avoid the topic whenever possible, given the current political climate.

Good advice for normal people, sure — but a columnist must column, social conventions be damned. So with a reputation to uphold, FT columnist Janan Ganesh stirred the pot this weekend: Gentrification, he argued, is, maybe, not as bad as some of us are making it out to be.

His argument, part 1: London’s King’s Cross development, in dire need of a refresh for years, has brought in companies, jobs, and an overall sense of modern renewal that’s benefited the city more than it’s hurt it. He, for one, definitely sounds like he’s enjoying it:

“Now…King’s Cross has Google, the Guardian, the Francis Crick Institute, Central Saint Martins art school and opportunities for night-time fun that do not entail a breach of the criminal law. An insomniac’s paradise, it allows me to split the small hours between a private bar in a residential crescent and a snooker hall that never, ever closes.”

His argument, part 2: “London has everything you’d expect from a changing city, apart from a cultural class at ease with change.” Ouch. He goes in hard, and doesn’t let up:

“Almost any large-scale development now runs into high-minded resistance. It is half-moral, half-aesthetic: concern for poor people displaced by yuppies, and distaste for the proliferation of steel and other alien materials in what is, at core, a brick-built city.

This resistance is sometimes right. When it finds a valid target, I urge it on. Anything to prevent more of the glass cysts that now pass for riverside buildings in Battersea. The trouble starts when the cognoscenti move from shrewd visual critique,… to something else: a voyeur’s enthusiasm for squalor, an insistence on tenements and grime as features of the authentic urban experience.”

Why we’re paying attention: Modern luxury companies (MLCs) often plant flags in gentrified areas. The most classic example of this is with the ongoing “Detroit reborn” narrative, where companies like Kit and Ace, Warby Parker, Shinola, and Floyd have either originated in the up-and-coming city, or have invested in permanent stores there. For London, King’s Cross is one such development that remains on Lean Luxe’s radar (alongside Bangkok’s The Commons). (Sidenote: The Monocle team also happens to be big fans of both.)

Our thinking on the matter: Gentrification is sure to raise a few hackles. But modern luxury brands go where the customers are — and as small brands just getting their start, they go where it’s most cost effective. Downtrodden places made hip with an influx of young people, exciting startup hubs, modern housing and retail developments, and a cultural refresh, hit the sweet spot for both young shoppers — and the modern luxury upstarts that need them to survive.

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