So it was quite the surprise when, on Monday, the British Fashion Council announced that it would be moving the official home of London Fashion Week from its current venue, the glamorous courtyards of Somerset House, once the site of a Tudor palace and now an elegant cultural centre, to the Brewer Street NCP.
True, the car park boasts a buzzing location, merely a stone’s throw away from Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery and the finest that theatreland has to offer, but is the BFC really going to demand Anna Wintour et al drag their Nicholas Kirkwoods through a multi-storey to reach the collections?
According to chief executive of the BFC, Caroline Rush, the new location "fulfils the BFC’s goal to host London Fashion Week in the West End, providing an epicentre for a city-wide fashion celebration with close proximity to major retail spaces."
Park and stride: the car park is no stranger to hosting events (Getty) And the car park is no stranger to the fash pack; indeed, some already refer to it as "Fashion Park". Richard Nicoll and Antonio Berardi have previously showcased their collections there, and in February, the BFC used the space to exhibit 110 emerging designers for an international fashion showcase that was free to the public.
Henry Holland, one of the first designers to use the car park for his show back in 2010, says that it suits the spirit of LFW.
"It’s a really good open blank canvas of a space that you can do loads with," Holland says. "The current tent set-up [until now, giant marquees in the courtyard of Somerset House were where designers held their catwalk shows], is quite soulless and a lot of the reason why designers currently choose to show off-site. I do think in some ways the car park could fit much more easily into the kind of general vibe and ethos of London Fashion Week which is all about young, new, cool talent. It’s a bit at odds with the over-the-top ostentatiousness of somewhere like Somerset House."
Others are quick to point out that, despite the familiar yellow and black NCP logo that scales its walls, the Brewer Street multi-storey is actually a rather wonderful venue. Designed by the architect JJ Joass and built in 1929, it was at the centre of an £80m planning row in 2002 after English Heritage advised that the building could be listed for preservation, describing it as an "important example of early motoring history". It currently offers 100 car bays.
One person who is not surprised at the BFC’s decision is the proud head of operations for NCP London, Roger Ashley.
"It’s a beautiful art-deco building," he says. "We invested in it heavily in 2002 and it’s a really nice place. The top floor is pretty much dedicated to events. Aside from fashion dos, movies have been filmed there, art exhibitions have taken place there, and we’ve had pop-up restaurants and outdoor markets up there. The only thing we can’t do is any sort of nightclub. Car parks these days are more than just car parks."
Indeed, other NCPs around the country have played host to everything from Art Drive!, an exhibition of BMW cars painted by famous artists including Andy Warhol and David Hockney, that took place in London’s Shoreditch NCP in 2012, to a screening of Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth in Bridgewater Hall NCP, as part of the Manchester International Festival in 2013.
But the latest endorsement from the BFC will ensure that the Brewer Street NCP remains the country’s chicest. And at £12 to park your motor there for one hour (going up to £50 for four), it also deals in the sort of overpriced luxury that the fashion industry can really get on board with.