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LONDON — Longchamp has landed on London’s Regent Street with a flagship store aimed at raising the brand’s profile here, and capturing the dynamic international tourist traffic buzzing around Oxford Circus.
The French leather goods firm has taken over the former Quicksilver store at 229 Regent Street and created a bright, airy space that showcases the brand’s full offer, including footwear, ready-to-wear and the company’s first in-store made-to-measure service.
“We’ve had two stores in London for a while, but we felt like the brand did not have enough visibility. We needed more of a physical presence in London, and it’s the ideal location to reach the tourist traffic. This store gives a more visible face to the brand,” said Jean Cassegrain, chief executive of the independent, family-run firm.
The new store spans 5,400 square feet over two floors, plus a mezzanine level. The ground floor, with its white stone floors and soaring ceilings, showcases women’s accessories, while footwear and rtw have their own special “lounge” area with mother-of-pearl cabinets, a wave-like mural on the ceiling, and video screens that will beam out images of travel scenes and maps.
The Gloucester bag, a collaboration with Kate Moss, has its own dedicated counter — the model is set to attend the store’s opening party on Saturday night — while the brand’s Légende bag has been given a British twist. A version of the bag has been made with the Union Jack on the front in a limited edition for the store.
A sweeping stone staircase leads to the mezzanine level, which is dedicated to Longchamp’s longtime bestseller, Le Pliage bag. There, customers will be able to build their own Le Pliage. Before now, the service was only available online.
Hanging above the mezzanine is an installation called “Homograph” by the design studio Troika. It is a cluster of geometric shapes — like a child’s mobile — that spins every few minutes, organizing and reorganizing itself.
“It goes from chaos, to order to chaos — we tried to reference the Longchamp themes of dance and movement,” said one of Troika’s artists, Conny Freyer.
Men’s accessories and luggage is showcased on the top floor, where there are engraved mahogany cabinets, printed glass shelves, and striated marble floors. There is also a lounge area with a window seat in the corner, letting in a flood of natural daylight.
“We try to bring new elements to every store we open, so for example, you might see mahogany in our other stores, but it won’t be engraved,” said Cassegrain.
Longchamp has two other stores in London — on New Bond Street and at the Westfield shopping mall — and Cassegrain said both would remain open, and New Bond Street will soon be expanded and refurbished.
Although he said there are no plans for more stores in the U.K., retail expansion is steaming ahead in the rest of Europe and the U.S. Over the next six months, Longchamp will open units in Rome, Munich, and Barcelona. In November, it also plans to open a shop in the Miami Design District.
It also has more units planned for Shanghai and Beijing, and by the end of this year will have a total of 20 units in China.
In an industry increasingly dominated by the big luxury groups and the financial markets, Cassegrain said the family has no plans to give up its independent ownership anytime soon.
“We manage the business and we have nothing to complain about. It’s a decision that we made, and there are benefits and drawbacks. But we are happy as we are and we are not considering a sale,” or a public offering, said Cassegrain, whose grandfather — and namesake — founded the company in Paris in 1948, having started out as the owner of a tobacco shop.
Asked about the increasingly competitive space in which Longchamp operates – one that includes brands such as Michael Kors, Furla, and Tory Burch – Cassegrain was just as sanguine.
“It seems like every single brand on the planet is making bags nowadays, but I hope that we can always remain different,” he said. “Our foundation is in luxury goods and craftsmanship, and we manufacture our bags ourselves – I don’t think many brands can say that. We are built on product, not on marketing.”
The brand produces its accessories through six of its own factories in western France and through its own and third-party factories in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius, and China.