In the unlikeliest of places in Leeds, amongst the markets and close to the coach station stands the city’s brand new gem: Victoria Gate. Having had its millionth shopper this week, we decided to pop in and see just what this new shopping centre is bringing to Leeds.
Upon arrival, all I could think of was how amazing the architecture was, having worked behind Victoria Gate all of last year, I felt that I had watched the whole construction grow from a hole in the floor to a magnificent shining beacon. Whilst there is a stark contrast to the City Market which sits very closely, it somehow doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb and looks rather inviting. Finally we have a shopping centre with a closed roof. The diamond shapes are supposed to represent the textile industry that once thrived in Leeds, so it’s nice that such an out of place building was at least attempting to serve some kind of homage to its home town.
The main attraction of Victoria Gate, and the hub of excitement that also surrounds a certain Christmas advert, is John Lewis. We’ve got Debenhams, we’ve got House of Fraser, we’ve even got a Harvey Nichols – so there was only one thing missing, and Victoria Gate has solved all of our middle-class problems. This flagship John Lewis is the biggest outside of London, it dominates the shopping centre but in a good way. I don’t think the interest would be half as big had this just been a bog standard shopping centre. If there is one thing Trinity was missing it was some kind of link to a department store, and Victoria Gate appears to be the answer to the alternative, middle-class shopper in Leeds. However, that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most popular shopping destinations since its opening, to say it was rammed at the weekend would be a major understatement – clearly Leeds has now produced a shopping force to be reckoned with.
Leeds has always had a great reputation for its high street shops, we have everything from Primark to the top-end of High Street chains like Zara. Victoria Gate has expanded this range from High-Street to High-End. The new centre boasts brands such as Mulberry, Whistles and The Kooples, an evident rise to the High-End markets. We already had the upmarket vibe in Harvey Nicholls, but, since it has scaffolding outside, it doesn’t seem to get much of a look in. There have already been concerns voiced over whether Victoria Gate is an attempt at the gentrification in Leeds, but I don’t think it will cause too much of an issue. If anything it will bring in more money for Leeds and become a shopping destination just like the Bullring, and Westfields for the entire nation. The fact that Victoria Gate can give High-End whilst Trinity is focused on High-Street shops makes me believe that both shopping centres can live within Leeds in harmony. We are the third biggest city in the UK, so why shouldn’t we have the best of both worlds?
With an insane amount of whiteness and brightness, I felt like Harry Potter when he dies and sees Dumbledore in the ethereal version of Kings Cross. At first it’s all a bit too much, and the floor being a black and white zig zag pattern could induce a serious headache, but once you get used to it, the aesthetics actually aren’t too bad. The shop windows seem to be in the shape of a wave, and nearly all of the shop names are written in gold on a black sign, it echoes that of its sister shopping arcade – the Victoria Quarter. Both fall in line with the monochrome and simplicity that high end shops seem to exude. You might not be able to afford anything on a student budget, but it’s worth going there just to do a spot of window shopping.
But like any grand reveal, Victoria Gate is being a tease and saving a two-floor space for a casino in January 2017. This casino looks like something that could rival Gatsby if he and his parties were real. You don’t have to be a member to join, and whilst that may be a little bit dangerous, it’s also a much grander scale of the small gambling arcades that are potted around Leeds.
If anything, Victoria Gate will entice people on its looks alone – and with its very own app offering deals nearly every day, it looks like the days of the high street and the shopping centres are far from over. Having such great success already, it seems like Leeds is giving a massive middle finger to the world of online shopping, and I for one, love it.