Thursday, 19 November 2009

Kookai's joie de vivre returns to London fashionistas

Everyone's favourite French high street label, Kookai has returned to favour with London fashionists. A new flagship store on St Christopher's Place is a long overdue retail home that looks set to ensure Kookai retakes its place in the crowded high street marketplace.

Actually Kookai's return has been brewing for a few seasons now. The French label had scaled back its London retail presence, working only with its biggest store partners. Now with a new design team at the helm the label has majored on its strongest legacy: knitwear. And leather pieces. And natural fabrics. It's a mix that works with a chic twist.

At the press launch for the new store, press saw what was in store for spring/summer 2010 - all Breton stripe sweaters, easy silky prints, lightweight leather or suede pieces and a whole range of different gauge knits, from long line cardigans to cropped open knit weaves for a real fashion offer.

Here's a selection of my favourite pieces for spring, hitting the new St Christopher's Place store end of January.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Guess says "Wonder, Passion, Freedom" for retrospective celebration

Iconic US denim brand Guess decided to celebrate 28 years of sexy photography with a party in London last night. Oh and the new flagship store on London's Regent Street.

With steamy black and white photos of ripped jeans, rippling torsos and plenty of cleavage all over the walls, not to mention Claudia Schiffer and the brand's other heavyweight supermodel faces through the past couple of decades featuring in the two week long exhibition at Il Bottacio, Knightsbridge - this was a party for a party's sake.

For those party-goers unfamiliar with the current Guess collection there were a few mannequins dotted around - skin-tight denim and gothic-meets-bling touches would be my take on the brand's DNA right now.

Actually the black and white photography stills from past ad campaigns was certainly a visual retro fest for those interested in denim iconography. My how Guess has changed its tune in the last 28 years!

A couple of days later I was passing the new flagship and perused the gothic-meets-bling-meets-rock-chick windows and noted the VM is an accomplished affair. (But EXACTLY the same as the plethora of US stores). Also, I have to say the store would have been a much better venue for the exhibition - after waiting so long for the right location I can't help but wonder why the celebratory event was held elsewhere? And while they were about it, the party should have had a Hallowe'en theme guys - it's all about the costume at Hallowe'en after all!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Anthropologie is retail magic

At last! Anthropologie has finally opened on London's Regent Street. As a seasoned US Anthro customer I was beyond excited at the prospect having a good look around at the press preview on Wednesday - and they added a sumptuous tea party spread to boot!

So the real secret of Anthropologie's success Stateside is the clever VM and eclectic product display that mixes fashion, homewares and lifestyle with a certain je ne sais quoi that sews it all together. It's retail magic that makes you want to buy everything! Each store has two dedicated VM experts that change around new product all the time and are responsible for the story telling aesthetic Anthropologie is known for. From wardrobe to bedroom to kitchen table to pantry and even to garden (with sister retail brand Terrain) it's all there to be discovered.

When I asked visual manager Camdon Richardson what was his secret he told me the devil is in the detail: "It's all down to the little touches I put in the nooks and crannies to catch people's attention. Some of our shoppers are used to Anthropologie displays (and love us for it) but others are captivated when we add the little related product ideas and special props we find from our travels around the world. It's about inspiring people to follow our style in their home so I like to show them how to do it for themselves." He added that the London store has been his favourite so far because the UK - and Europe provides such a rich cultural melting pot of ideas. "It's a huge first step for us here in Europe."

James Bidwell is MD of the Urban Outfitters owned new Anthro UK. He told me: "We're all about experience and we exist to provide our customers with a journey of discovery in-store. The secret of the store is the merchandising. Average dwell time per customer is an hour and a half and it's because there's so much to discover. It's like layering different product stories for the customer." He added that the creative visual team take a completely different approach to each store - they're based in each one and take inspiration locally. So London means Union Jack wall hangings, quilts and throws - with one even styled on a mannequin as a skirt to throw the different departments together.

Other quirky highlights in-store include the giant lifesize Narwhal hanging above the laden tabletop display (made from all the plastic packaging from the products shipped in for opening, and covered in paper mache), the Magpie chandeliers made by South African artist communities, the Christmas room complete with snowy clouds (check out Anthro's wonderful ornaments selection) and last but certainly not least is the 2000 sq ft growing plant wall complete with over 80,000 plants, created by UK based company Biotech. "It's like a green oasis on Regent Street". If you look closely the plants are arranged in a plaid check formation and are supported by their very own sustainable irrigation system from the roof. The wall together with the three storey staircase (made from reclaimed wooden frames), stitches the building together. Oh and I nearly forgot the stunning circular hanging window display made from hundreds of dip-dyed used tea-bags. Very British!

I also had a quick chat with head of buying Olivia Richardson who said she wanted to bring over what was relevant from the US and translate it for the UK market. "We had our London customer firmly in mind and wanted to source the local market to make the Anthropologie offer right for Europe. So we're doing a number of collaborations with both the interiors and fashion offers including a capsule range with Eley Kishimoto and several items from the boutique Beyond the Valley. We have also worked with French artist Nathalie Lete to create some one off home pieces and British interior designer duo Clarke and Reilly have created a line of hand crafted furniture exclusively for us."

She added: "Our customer encounters everything from textiles to home accessories, as well as decorative antiques and vintage objects that are literally found by our buyers who travel the world in search of originality that's right for Anthropologie."

Wow 'buyer at large' sounds like my dream job!

As usual I didn't hold back snapping away inside, here's my selection of pics for your visual delight!
Anthropologie Regent Street

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Monsoon's boudoir lingerie

Monsoon's new lingerie line is pure boudoir dressing.

Launching today, the new collection makes its debut at larger branches of Monsoon stores all over the world with a special corner boutique full of rose petals, dressing room furniture and scented candles to get you in the the bedroom mood!

Cute pastels and florals mix with silky satins for mesh bra-tops and knickers, camis and lace-edged slips. I snaffled one of the blue satin lace-edged bras and cami-knickers matching sets at the press launch in the Kings Road flagship store and was pretty impressed with the bargainista high-street prices. And the thing I love so much about Monsoon is that it does such good homewares products too - so alongside the new lingerie, find really feminine cushions, knick-knacks, picture frames, candles and other bits and bobs to prettify any bedroom corner.

It's so pretty and so Monsoon, and now we're so ready for some boudoir time!