LONDON – For years, concept stores have been sprouting like clover across London, but ex–Browns and Mouki Mou buyer Tijana Djordjevic and the personal stylist Yue Wei still feel there’s room for one more.
Gentlewench, which is slated to launch on Oct. 11, is the brainchild of the two industry insiders and is located on Chance Street in Shoreditch, around the corner from Browns’ East London space.
The name may be a mouthful — and slightly comical — but Wei, the founder and Djordjevic, buying director, said it perfectly describes their consumer, merchandise and the store’s aesthetic.
“’Wench’ was used in Shakespeare to describe a pirate lady: She’s fun and a bit of a hoochie [a promiscuous type], whereas ‘gentle’ is a lady who is super-educated, very classic, comes from a good background. It’s about combining those two because I feel like nowadays smaller concept stores stick to one aesthetic and here, we want to mix it up,” said Djordjevic.
To set itself apart from other concept and lifestyle stores, Gentlewench plans to specialize in niche brands. Wei said he’s comfortable with the fact that these small brand names won’t necessarily attract a big footfall.
“We’re doing it the other way around. Normally stores open and wait for customers to come in and build their base from there, but we’ve already built our base,” Wei said, disclosing that he has 5,000 clients in his personal books. During a walkthrough ahead of the official opening, a private client was already making purchases.
With their extensive network of brands and customers, the two have been able to introduce new and contemporary labels. Hanging in the window is a red jacket by Lado Bokuchava and a polka-dot dress by George Keburia, with the clothes displayed on crossed metal rails made to resemble a scarecrow and piquing the curiosity of passersby.
Other brands stocked at Gentlewench include Andrea Jiapei Li, Neith Nyer and Overcoat, whose founder and creative director used to be a pattern-cutter at Comme des Garçons.
Garments are grouped into color palettes, with looks created from a variety of labels. They hang on a curving rail that’s situated in the middle of the room and wraps around a main display: a large hanging light in the shape of a moon and a low, jagged stone table.
The fixtures were created for the store by interior designers Fred Rigby and Dunstan James. “We wanted to take advantage of the open space and merchandise it like a living room rather than a retail shop,” Djordjevic said.
While ready-to-wear makes up a large portion of the Gentlewench offer, the store also stocks footwear, accessories, jewelry and homeware. “We want to go head-on and with a bang,” said Wei, who also touched on the store’s plans to include art installations as part of the lifestyle concept.
The homeware offering will be the duo’s way of keeping the shop fresh and exciting. “I think the concept of drops is exciting, but our brands do their work seasonally, so one way we plan to introduce more products mid-season is through homeware,” Djordjevic explained.
Wei and Djordjevic said they’re looking for sellthroughs of 65 percent for the year, and to help hit that target, an e-commerce site is slated to launch by the beginning of 2019.