Reinvention: Not Your Grandpa’s Club
Dotted within the sprawling topography of London today, members’ clubs — new and of age — are seeing somewhat of a renaissance. But tradition rarely fares well in modern revivals.
In the current climate, an admission board’s indifference towards the number of zeros on a prospective member’s salary isn’t exactly revolutionary. What is setting the names on these lengthening lists apart is spirit, values and service.
In the British capital, Black’s — a long-established Supper Club founded as the antithesis to White’s — relaunched in 2019 under new ownership. Taking a leaf from the Matter Of Form playbook, Black’s new co-owners are determined to strike a balance between honouring heritage and finding relevance in new times.
A regular haunt for a roster of famous artists including Sam Smith, Laura Mvula and Dave, the club is one of many arts-focused establishments which have emerged following the universal success of Soho House over the last two decades.
Others are investing significant resource to wellness offerings. South Kensington residents’ club The Other House are blending the belonging of members’ clubs with the service of branded residences, but wellness offerings are their standout touch points.
The House’s dedicated wellness concierge oversees and curates therapies tailored to members and guests, from reiki and hypnotherapy to sound baths featuring Europe’s largest gongs.
To the other side of Hyde Park, Mortimer House in Fitzrovia is a club in hot pursuit of holistic wellness for its members. “Engendering the ideal balance of body, mind and spirit”, the amenities include a high-tech gym with private sessions and communal classes, a plant-laden meditation room and dedicated workshop spaces for a wellness series with experts and gurus.
Inclusively Hedonistic Dens
Elsewhere non-private clubs are getting inspired by the everyday hedonism associated with members’ clubs in popular imagination.
Bedroom 6, a nightlife experience in NYC whose only entry requirement is an Instagram follow request, centres on a ‘transcendent’ absinthe ritual which harks back to the drinking habits of Picasso, Dali and Hemingway.
Back in London, Marylebone nightlife monument BEAT was a speakeasy in the sixties that attracted icons from Hendrix and The Beatles to Bowie and Sir Elton. Now a private members’ club, BEAT takes patrons on “weekly musical and artistic rituals”, continuously cultivating “a community of the tasteful few.” It’s elitism not so much founded in class but cultural categorisation.
Going one step further to fuse every aspect of our lives, Jolie’s cohesion-focused community model pedestals curiosity and creativity. The club consists of nine separate spaces for working, drinking, dining, entertaining and creating.
Upended by the pandemic, their 2021 launch highlighted members’ clubs as safe spaces to gather in frightening times as well as catering to India’s expanding luxury cohort.
The Reading Club in San Diego follows a similar ‘third space’ approach, branded as a place that transcends the boundaries that separate aspects of rest, work and play.
In Camden, The House of KOKO has made waves among the city’s club scene. Set in a 123-year-old building, the site has a long social and cultural history, debuting as The Camden Theatre then becoming a music venue later in life. Rivalling Soho House in aesthetics at least thanks to a £70m overhaul, the revamped club opened in the spring of 2022 to a near boiling over of anticipation.
Set ‘backstage’ of the original theatre, the members’ club spans four floors and is arguably one of London’s most immersive iterations due to their slick incorporation of tech. To solidify KOKO as the epicentre of the capital’s music scene, livestreaming tech is embedded in seven rooms, including the penthouse studio.
Taking tech a step further, Singapore’s Mandala Club released 250 NFT-based memberships named the Genesis Pass in January of this year. Aiming to create an even smaller, hyper-engaged community from their current 2000-strong membership.
Though this may seem like an exhaustive overview of current club offerings, we’ve barely scratched the surface. But you get the gist. Though private members’ clubs hold onto their high design and community-centric roots, new names and those who rightly believe in the necessity of relevance, have left behind stale traditions in pursuit of being extraordinary.