Epra Fabrics, a textile wholesaler, is a family run business. Three generations of this Jewish family – grandfather, father, and son – work together to run the Brick Lane shop.
The grandfather, who opened Epra Fabrics on Brick Lane in 1956, started his working life as a fabric salesman. He arrived in London in the late 1930s as a young boy, along with his family, having fled Nazi Germany. The family settled in Stamford Hill and, due to wartime staff shortages, his father found work at an East End factory, which made flying jackets for RAF personnel.
In the 1950s, when Epra Fabrics opened, Brick Lane was a high street for local Jewish residents, with many Jewish shops and businesses and where Yiddish was widely spoken. Number 59 Brick Lane, which has been the site of Brick Lane’s mosque since 1976, was once Spitalfields Great Synagogue (before that, the building was a Protestant chapel which served London's Huguenot community). Today, Epra Fabrics is the only remaining Jewish retailer on Brick Lane.
Epra Fabrics originally occupied one ground-floor site on Brick Lane, but eventually expanded into the two neighbouring retail units. Early on, the shop’s owner sourced fabrics in Britain, but he soon began importing fabrics from Hong Kong. Now the bulk of the shop’s fabrics are sourced in mainland China, with some also from the Indian subcontinent.
The number of people passing through the store on Brick Lane has diminished over the years, partly because approximately two-thirds of the business’s trade is now digital. Epra Fabrics displays its products on a website, which allows customers from across the country to place orders online for postal delivery.