By  on April 21, 2009

LONDON — Londoners can now get a peep into the kooky, colorful world of Marc by Marc Jacobs. Earlier this month, the label opened its first British store on South Audley Street, nearby to Mount Street, where a Marc Jacobs unit opened in 2007.

The 3,896-square-foot store is located in a space that was once a bank, and boasts parquet wooden floors, high corniced ceilings and bank vaults in the basement — one of which has been converted into a room to display bags and shoes. But while it’s located in a posh 19th -century building, the space is far from stuffy. Shelves of fluorescent T-shirts and jeans line the walls; rucksacks hang from the ceiling, and chrome stands filled with chunky bubble rhinestone rings, red heart-shaped mirror compacts and plastic lipstick pens greet customers at the door.

“I love the heights of the ceilings and I love the space, but I love to fill space with stuff,” said Robert Duffy, president and co-founder of Marc Jacobs International, during a walkthrough of the store last week. “And I like it to be entertaining. I love to watch people come in and go through all the nooks and crannies trying to figure out what is in here.”

The store, designed by New York-based Stephen Jaklitsch Architects, is decked out with Christian Liaigre blue leather bleacher-style benches that run along the center of the space, on either side of units that carry a selection of artsy coffee table books and leather key rings. There are also changeable steel and aluminum shelves the staff can alter, Duffy said. “I wanted this [store] to be more arts and crafts because the staff that we hired are more creative,” he said.

Duffy said he’d had his eye on the space, which stands on the corner of South Audley and Mount streets, for a while. “I wanted this store to be the Collection store, but the [former tenant] wouldn’t budge,” he said. “I still never gave up, so I just kept bothering the guy until he said, ‘OK.’”

Duffy said that based on the success of the Marc Jacobs Collection store, opening a Marc by Marc Jacobs space was “a no-brainer.”

But he believes the Marc by Marc Jacobs customer is distinct from the Collection one in London. “This customer is fast. It’s young and fun,” said Duffy, adding that while the label’s customers may not be entirely resilient to the recession, the mix of price points serves the line well in the economic climate.

“There’s stuff that’s expensive, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s very inexpensive. It’s competitive with anything that you would find. Even a little ankle sock, it’s made out of cashmere but it’s not expensive,” he said. “I think that people are quite surprised actually when they walk into one of our stores for the first time. When they see Marc by Marc…someplace else, I think it’s presented more as a designer line, but then when they come into our store and see the entire range, they’re sort of overwhelmed.”

Prices in the store range from 1 pound, or $1.45, for a lipstick pen through to 450 pounds, or $654, for a Hillier leather hobo bag.

Unlike when the Marc Jacobs store opened in London in 2007, Duffy said he doesn’t plan to show the Marc by Marc Jacobs line in London next season to mark the launch. “I thought about it, but because of the economic climate right now [it felt] inappropriate,” said Duffy, though he didn’t rule out an event of some sort in the city.

Duffy declined to give first-year sales predictions for the store, but said he had “tremendous confidence” in opening Marc by Marc Jacobs stores, adding there are lines of people outside the Marc by Marc Jacobs stores in Paris “every Saturday.”

London is the latest in a series Marc by Marc Jacobs openings planned for 2009, with more than 30 slated this year in locations including Seoul, Taipei, Hawaii, Mexico, Guam, Tokyo and Lisbon. “This [line] was not done because I had a crystal ball,” said Duffy. “I love fast fashion and I love change.…I get that part of it. It’s how real people dress.”

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