Thursday, June 17

And then there was one: the last resident of Bond Street | West End

FFrom his vantage point in the casement windows of his Bond Street flat, Ollie Claridge has an unrivaled view of the super-rich going about their business. On London’s most affluent shopping street, where £ 1 billion is spent each year, this could involve choosing a £ 5,000 handbag, trying on a £ 3 million diamond ring, bidding at auction for a used Mercury Cougar in a shop. James Bond movie or drinking pink champagne. midmorning as the impeccable shop assistants flit around.

Claridge is part of this world and is apart from it. “I’m a bit freaky,” he says. “Lowering the tone.”

Courtesy of a protected lease inherited from his father, Claridge is the last resident of Bond Street, alone among the storefronts of brands such as Dior, Cartier and Asprey. “It’s a bit lonely, especially in the last year. There is no community. There are pubs west of Bond Street, but they are pubs for workers, ”he told the Observer.

A landscaper – “seasonal job, lot a day” – who grew up in a Scottish village, Claridge is both baffled and amused with the world literally on his doorstep. “At the end of the most recent closing, there were lines of people outside of Tiffany. I mean, they have all this money but they still had to queue on the street.

“None of these international brands make money from these stores because the rents are huge. But they absolutely must have a Bond Street address. “

In 2019, Bond Street, which runs between Oxford Street and Piccadilly, was the most expensive street in Europe for retail rentals, and the third most expensive in the world after Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay and New York’s Upper Fifth Avenue.

Shoppers stroll past the designer shops on Bond Street
Shoppers stop by the designer stores on Bond Street, where even high-end brands can’t afford the rent, but feel they must have a presence here. Photograph: Mike Kemp / Getty

The premium was due “to its worldwide renown among luxury retailers, who perceive representation here, along with other locations in New York, Paris and Tokyo, … as the key to success,” said Peter Mace of the real estate consultancy. Cushman & Wakefield. Retail Gazette.

A television documentary Billion Pound Bond Street, which will be shown on ITV on June 10, offers a behind-the-scenes look at this world of “fabulous glitz and ambitious luxury,” according to Bafta-winning director Michael Waldman.

“I was delighted to find the only resident of the street, a man who is not exactly a fish out of water, because he actually belongs quite fabulously in terms of history and characters from the area, but who is a nonconformist in this world of brands. . He does not share the desire [for luxury] but he’s not outraged by it, he just says, ‘isn’t that strange?’ “Waldman told the Observer.

Claridge moved into the apartment, once inhabited by Guy Burgess of the infamous Cambridge spy ring, 20 years ago, and inherited the contract in 2006 when her father died. “Before we had neighbors, but not anymore.” The astronomical cost of the Bond Street property has precluded all but commercial rentals to high-end businesses, he says.

Nelson, Handel and Jimi Hendrix were among the historic residents of the area’s architectural splendor, along with the highest paid sex workers in London. “There was a red light district around the corner. Bond St was once rough around the edges, but not anymore. I wish it was a little tougher, ”says Claridge.

But, he adds, there are “quite a few” homeless people. “A lot of people who work in the area gave them money on a regular basis, but during the closing, their income went away because no one was here.” The gangs were also “pushing people out of their places,” he says.

Bond Street almost deserted, with thank-you banners for essential workers during the closure.
Bond Street almost deserted, with thank-you banners for essential workers during the closure. Photograph: Tim Ayers / Alamy

Despite growing inequalities, and the wealth of the super-rich is estimated to have increased by 25% during the pandemic, Claridge does not judge people who spend thousands of pounds on fashion brands, or hundreds of thousands on luxury cars, or even millions in diamonds. . “Other people’s morale is your business. But there is an ethical question of how much tax some of these companies pay because many of them are registered in Switzerland. People should pay taxes, but they are good at not doing it. If you are rich enough to spend £ 4,000 on a purse, you probably have a very good accountant. “

Inequality and poverty “are not okay,” he said. “You don’t see much on Bond Street. A few miles away, there are children who do not have enough to eat.

He knows Boris Johnson “vaguely” through his old friend, the prime minister’s sister, Rachel, he says. “Boris came down Bond Street a few years ago, recognized me and said ‘Ollie, can I count on your vote?’ I said, ‘Has anyone ever told you that you are a conservative?’ He laughed, he had a sense of humor then, which could have slipped a bit. “

Claridge, who spent last week on a retreat in Dorset, has not seen Waldman’s documentary and says she probably won’t see it when it airs. The lease for his apartment is six more years old, but he does not know where he will go when it ends. “I can’t afford to live anywhere else,” he says.

If you had some of the wealth that you see spilling onto Bond Street, what would you do with it? “I would buy a piece of land and plant trees,” he says without hesitation.

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