Fola Textile, Spitalfields, 2008, Ravish London

Fola Textiles, Spitalfields

Fola Textiles is one of a number of wholesaler & retailer shops on Wentworth Street, Spitalfields.

When I took a photograph of this shop window, there was an African guy, shouting at me 'No,no' and waving a finger. He was strongly disapproving without being aggressive. I went into the shop and asked him what was wrong. The woman stood next to him, folding fabrics with him, said to me 'Why are you doing that?' with a disapproving and slight annoyed look on her face. I told her I was doing a directory of services in London. She said, 'you shouldn't be doing that' and put on an air of disapproval once more. It was kind of cute to see her look like that. I told the couple that I wasn't trying to steal his designs. The guy in the shop said it didn't matter. I said that if I really wanted to steal his ideas I would come with a video camera stuffed down my jacket. He told me that people have tried that one before. I said but if people copy your ideas will you really loose money. He said, yes, he said, that they would copy it, and try and sell it down the road for fifty pence cheaper. Cut throat business capitalism eh? Since then I have been informed that the habit of taking photographs of designs and reproducing them at a cheaper design is rife in the industry.

Multinational corporations have secret units set up to go around the world taking photographs and samples of designers' ideas, which the multinationals then reproduce on a much larger scale allowing them to reduce the cost and sell at a much more competitive rate. The big eat the small.

I left having been chastised, but also having this romantic idea of these two working tirelessly together, against the rogue traders, trying to make a decent living.

Its an interesting phenomenon actually, and not one that any writers have picked up on, that the textiles trade in Spitalfields, which originally started off in the hands of the French Protestant refugees, who had fled from Catholic France in the seventeenth century; was passed on to Jewish refugees escaping the pogroms in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It now seems to be in the hands of Africans and Caribbeans with quite a few Asians in on the game.


Spitalfields is a small neighbourhood in the east end of London with a rich historical part including waves of immigration which stretch back to the sixteenth century. For the last five hundred years the story of the people who lived there has been one of struggling to make ends meet, industry and from time to time deprivation, poverty and slums. A new era seems to be dawning on the area, as its proximity to London's every growing financial centre, has seen chunks of it redeveloped for trading floors, officers, leisure complexes and trendy flats. Today, with it social history clearly impregnated into the surrounding buildings, communities and architecture, and with the new developments, Spitalfields is a dynamic, fascinating part of London's old east end that is a must for anyone seeking a deeper perspective on London.

Wentworth Street

Wentworth Street is located in Spitalfields East London and stretches from Middlesex Street, home of Petticoat Lane market, running across the busy artery Commercial Street, to the more poverty stricken and Council estate environs of Whitechapel. At its market end there is a plethora of dirty looking shops selling African and Indian textiles; and other clothes. Out on the streets there are two rows of market stalls running down either side of the road, selling cheap clothes. The pace of business during the weekday is always slow, there is little custom, and the market traders look disaffected and troubled. Having crossed Commercial Street Wentworth Street changes character so much that it should be given a different street name in the same way that every street east of Commercial Street has a different name from its western counterpart. Here the pace of life turns suburban, quiet, and you become a lot more wary of your surroundings. People are no longer strolling but walking with their head down, keeping themselves to themselves, and more often than not going somewhere. If they don't have the look of someone with a destiny it causes immediate suspicion.

Date Article Written: 2008

Contact Details and References

Fola Textile, 28 Wentworth Street, London E1 7TF

44 (0)20 73750608


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