LONDON — The concept store Koibird is back, with a new destination-themed retail concept.
This time it’s taking its audience of discerning consumers to Eastern Europe, by way of Marylebone, transporting shoppers to a local grandmother’s charming, all-floral living room, similar to ones founder Belma Gaudio remembers from her childhood.
Gaudio — who hails from the former Yugoslavia and who fled the country in the Nineties — also created an edit that celebrates regional designers such as the Georgian up-and-comers Mach and Mach, Anouki, Georgia Keburia and Matériel, as well as the Poland-based Magda Butrym.
The debut of the new concept comes at a challenging time for physical retail. Yet it’s also a time to rediscover the joy of shopping and one-of-a-kind experiences, Gaudio said.
“I will always believe in the in-store experience like I believe in human relationships and a human touch. No matter how digital we get, we will continue to long to see other people, touch things we like and try on clothes to make sure they are right for us. I would hope that shopping remains a special activity that entices our senses as opposed to an act of mindlessly accumulating things we haven’t even seen in person and inevitably might not need or really want,” she said.
She added that even though the retailer opted for a more “pared back” transformation — previous seasons saw the Marylebone retail space turned into everything from a candy-colored summer heaven to an L.A.-themed extravaganza — it was still important to go ahead with a new concept and offer customers reasons to shop, as well as dream, again.
That’s why her edit is also packed with one-of-a-kind pieces, lesser-known designer names and just “the right amount of kitsch.”
“I think in an environment where people are more conscious of what they buy, and wanting to make purchasing choices based on love and true need, new brands and unique items are the way to go. I don’t find it a frivolous act. During this depressing time, I would rather buy one fabulous new thing that will make me stand out than another track suit or neutral basic that I have a closet full of,” Gaudio said.
“Shopping makes us feel better, period. So we need to find a way to do it well. Interesting pieces that will make you stand out and cement your personality, your message and your mood, are the pieces worth investing in.”
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Koibird was forced to shut its doors between March and July just after introducing an African-themed fashion concept for spring 2020. The retailer has been strengthening its e-commerce platform since, as well as focusing on more one-on-one customer communication via WhatsApp.
“There has definitely been a big shift online and understandably so, [but] the store has not been dead. We have been providing appointments in-store during the summer months, and while footfall is obviously a lot lower than it used to be, people are still happy and feel safe to come in,” Gaudio said.