Stores we love August 17
This month’s stores we love article spotlights London’s best new openings, including two fresh H&M brands, activewear giant Asics’ Regent Street flagship and concept store 18montrose’s first venture south. We will also take a look at Virgil Abloh’s latest Off-White store in Manhattan.
The latest addition to the roster of H&M brands, Arket, translation sheet of paper in Swedish, (how minimalist!) epitomises grown up Scandi style with a mix of considered homeware and fashion.
What we love
The cross-department concept. Although not the first H&M brand to offer a lifestyle/fashion mix, Arket does it with aplomb. The store features its own café offering cold-pressed coffee and snacks, plus a central Homeware department with lifestyle products peppered artfully throughout the store. For instance, a cookbook with a particularly pretty sage-green cover is merchandised besides similarly hued sweaters in the Womenswear department. This cross-department synergy is more akin to a concept store than a high street shop.
The focus on fabric. Arket makes much of its choice of fabrics and each product is given a unique 9-digit code. For example, a women’s recycled cashmere sweater is 22045-087R. The number follows a numerical system that can be broken down by the department, (2:Women), category (22: knitwear), product (045) and material (087 is cashmere, ‘R’ stands for recycled). This is intended to make each garment easier to identify. Examples of the different fabrics are displayed in apothecary-style glass cases making for an artful VM feature.
The Scandi design. A fuss-free, Scandinavian aesthetic forms the building blocks to Arket’s design. Pale wood, muted hues, sleek metal touches and gleaming glass display cases help create the ultimate minimalist aesthetic. Neatly stacked rolls of fabric and hanging yarns of cloth make for creative VM focal points and reinforce the brand’s focus on quality materials.
With fashion and art bestowed equal attention, Off-White’s 12th store, named ‘EM PTY GALLERY’, is exactly what we would expect from tastemaker Virgil Abloh.
What we love
It’s not just a shop. Virgil Abloh calls it the “crescendo of the Off-White language” and wants the store to be the physical manifestation of the brand’s ethos – that there’s no distinction between art and fashion. A black leather bag with the word ‘sculpture’ epitomises this – a tad pretentious perhaps, but it makes Abloh’s point succinctly. Furthermore, the space is not called a shop, but instead a gallery, and rather than there being a swinging sign out front, ‘EM PTY GALLERY’ is etched subtly into a single brick.
The garden-inspired interior. The white-box style space is brought to life with an abundance of fake trees and crisp loose leaves inspired by the AW17 runway set. This is enhanced by naturalistic soundscaping of chirping birds and rustling plants. We love how this counterbalances the coldness usually associated with galleries, lending the space a more welcoming tone.
It aims to broaden the brand’s appeal. Off-White has become synonymous with wealthy teen boy style, however, Abloh is desperate for the brand to appeal to ‘mothers and daughters’ as well. Therefore womenswear and menswear have been given equal space and importance, and the interior design is grown-up and ungendered. The store also has a comment box encouraging customers to leave any recommendations. We love that Abloh is committed to having the brand and store better serve its customers.
Athleticwear brand Asics impresses with its new Regent Street flagship. Spread over three floors it raises the bar of sports retailers with a bold design and thoughtful services.
What we love
The sharp design. The use of glossy chrome cladding, vibrant lighting and oversized graphics are bold and attention stealing, lending the interior a futuristic and dynamic aesthetic. At almost thirty times the size of the average Asics stores, this Regent Street shop truly marks the dawn of a new era for the brand which plans to open a further 100 stores across Europe by 2020 – Nike, Adidas et al better watch out!
The tech-savvy features. From the robotics in the window to the video screens playing striking campaign content, the store is bursting with strong digital statements. Elements like the sound-sensitive fluorescent lighting and robot stock picker add a note of fun to the space, while the motion ID treadmills in the basement are a more serious feature that demonstrates the brand’s commitment to enhancing the running experience and general high-performance in sports.
The holistic tone. As well offering technically advanced clothing, footwear, and services, there’s a focus on the softer side of sportswear. This is evident in the chic athleisure collections, trend-led trainer offer, and innovative juice bar. By the cash desk, guests are invited to enjoy a complimentary healthy juice drink – a perfect end to their retail experience.
Glasweigan concept store 18montrose’s first London outpost is bringing a contemporary, urbane note to King’s Cross.
The visually stunning interior. The most striking thing about the store is the futuristic, Bond villan-esque interior. When browsing the store, the customer is surrounded by screens playing dynamic fashion-led videos in unison. The effect is theatrical, dramatically bringing to life the polished concrete floors and white merchandising systems. We love that the store exudes the same energy you would find on a runway show for any of the brands stocked – be that Stone Island, Rick Owens, Maison Margiela or Thom Browne to name a few.
The location. Tucked just behind legendary arts college, Central Saint Martins, in a part of King’s Cross that’s currently undergoing a massive regeneration, 18montrose’s location couldn’t be better. Not only is the store part of a something emerging and exciting in London, it’s also going to receive a lot of footfall from just the right type of customer.
The only slight quibble we have is that the menswear offer is so strong, it makes the womenswear department seem a little lackluster. A few more offbeat brands there would really complete this store by complementing the menswear offer.
H&M’s millennial-focused brand, Weekday, makes its UK debut with a new store on Regent Street.
What we love
It’s refreshing identity. The store has a really different feel from its sister brands; it’s not trendy like H&M, as playful as Monki, or strictly minimalist like Cos and has nothing of the insouciant prints of &Other Stories. This is reflected in the interior design – Scandi with pops of fun – and the product offer that centres on an everyday millennial uniform. As The Guardian newspaper said, “It’s wearable fashion without a capital F.” In a retail market that’s inundated with heavily trend-led collections, this is markedly refreshing.
The Scandi-modern interior. The store’s polished concrete floors, optic white walls and slender lights lend it a sleek Scandi look that’s enlivened by the iridescent merchandising systems, old-skool digital signage and tactile woodchip display boxes. The metal cash desk throws a cool industrial vibe into the mix, whereas the blonde wood stairs and peppering of plants lend a more earthy tone – overall a perfectly on-point look.
Zeitgeist 2017. This is a store-made project that prints of-the-moment slogans on T-shirts and totes every week. For instance one of August’s messages was “J’adore Diana” in honour of the anniversary of Lady Di’s tragic death. This service roots the store in its locality, provides the customer with an engaging experience and gives the brand a point of difference from its immediate competitors. Very clever.