LONDON — Bond Street has been beating to the rhythm of luxury flagship openings, including Stella McCartney, Pomellato, Cartier, Givenchy and now Alexander McQueen, which has landed in the former DKNY space with a colorful explosion of handmade butterflies, a new interiors concept and all product categories under the same roof.
Spanning nearly 11,000 square feet, it is four times bigger than the former flagship across the street. It boasts soaring ceilings and a primeval feel, with honey-toned, boulder-like sculptures that serve as product displays, oak and walnut lining walls, floors and ceilings, and spacious dressing rooms that resemble yurts plucked from the Old Silk Road.
Glass cylinders connect the three floors while a new cladding known as “cotton-crete,” a cotton-based papier-mâché, has been developed exclusively for the space. The Chilean artist Marcela Correa has created sculptures in alabaster, bronze, granite and wood, which are meant to guide visitors around the space.
Each season, different fabrics will appear, in dressing rooms and across the store — referencing current collections and transforming the mood. They’ll be hatched in the Alexander McQueen studio, under creative director Sarah Burton’s direction.
Swarms of colored bugs and butterflies on black fishnet adorn the glass windows that face Old Bond Street while a circular staircase curls from the ground floor to the upper two levels. The top floor has been reserved for events aimed chiefly at fashion students, something that Burton had specifically wanted.
Burton took charge of the concept herself, designing the store in collaboration with the architect Smiljan Radic. She had previously worked with David Collins Studio on the former Bond Street flagship when it was refurbished in 2013, and on McQueen’s Savile Row men’s store, which had opened in 2012 and is now shut.
In an interview, McQueen’s chief executive officer Emmanuel Gintzburger deemed the opening pivotal, the first volley in a new chapter for the company, which plans to double its store network to 128 units in the medium-term.
He described the new store as “a distinctive world” with the McQueen silhouette at its center: Multiple mannequins are meant to guide visitors around the space and eliminate the barrier between the product and the customer. Products have been organized by story rather than by category, and are set to be changed constantly.
“It creates a different kind of visitor flow that is calm and private, free and engaging,” he said.
The store’s top floor is another point of difference. “Traditionally, the last floor of a luxury retail store is very exclusive. Here, we wanted to make it inclusive, breaking the rules and turning the pyramid upside down. Our top floor will be a creative space, where we want design and fashion communities to learn, discover and share,” Gintzburger added.
Starting this month, the company plans to host interactive projects, such as talks and exhibitions, “as a way of discovering various aspects of the house or connected to the house,” he said, adding that events could center on the creative processes behind a collection, specific techniques, and talks by artists or friends of Alexander McQueen.
Events will be aimed mainly at British and international students. “For us, and especially our creative studio, it is a way to give back what they have had the chance to experience and learn at Alexander McQueen. It is an exceptional and authentic fashion house, and we want people to be part of it, in their own way,” the executive explained.
With regard to the merchandising, Gintzburger said more than 50 mannequins “show the diversity and strength of the Alexander McQueen silhouette, referencing the stories of the runway collection. It gives a different and much broader angle to discover the house, which is anchored in British culture.”
The store offers men’s and women’s wear, bespoke and couture items as well as accessories such as bags, shoes, silk scarves and jewelry.
The brand decided to remain — and invest further — in Bond Street for very specific reasons, according to Gintzburger. He argued that McQueen is one of the very few international luxury houses that has, in fewer than 20 years, created its own silhouette and paradigms.
“The Alexander McQueen woman or man is confident, both powerful and vulnerable, romantic and rebellious. Our two past London stores did not fully express this. Telling this story, with a bold architectural environment in a traditional, yet highly respected luxury street, is essential for a British luxury fashion house like Alexander McQueen.”
In an interview with WWD earlier this month, Jace Tyrrell, chief executive officer of the New West End Company, which promotes retail and other businesses in Mayfair and Soho, said luxury brands such as McQueen have been fueling Bond Street’s buzz.
Stella McCartney, Alaïa, Givenchy, Cartier, Pomellato, Alexander McQueen and others have dedicated an estimated 1 billion pounds of capital expenditure over the past year in and around Bond Street, according to Tyrrell.
Gintzburger said its Bond Street design sets McQueen’s new template for retail, and more openings are in the pipeline. Dubai opened in December. Over the next few months, a lineup of flagships in key international cities will follow, starting with Shanghai in a few weeks, and then Monaco, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Miami, Milan and Paris.
“In addition to major cities, we are also expanding into new markets and developing further where we are underrepresented, in places such as Korea, Canada, Mexico, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, India and Brazil. Our exposure through travel retail is also a focus, with new locations in international airports such as Hong Kong and London,” he said.
McQueen has 64 directly operated stores, “but its potential is much greater, while still maintaining a very exclusive and relevant distribution. We intend to double our store network in the medium-term. Our own e-commerce platform will also be revisited under this new concept,” he said.
Retail is just one part of an ongoing brand overhaul that has been impacting everything from communications and merchandising to supply chain.
“We are completing a cycle of comprehensive brand alignment around one creative vision as well as a fully integrated retail organization,” said Gintzburger. “Over the past few months, we have had to significantly reinforce the foundations of the company before further investing and expanding the network worldwide.”
He said the company has transformed several, if not all, operational departments to enhance performance and translate Burton’s creative vision into the way the company works on a day-to-day basis, aligning communication channels, re-evaluating merchandising, discontinuing some products and closing some stores in order to open others in more strategic locations.
The new store on Old Bond, he said, is a window on those changes, and “fully expresses what the house stands for. It is not a traditional retail store: It is the physical link between our creative vision and the external world.”