LONDON — The coronavirus may be spreading fear and uncertainty across the globe, but despite the anxiety — and fast-dwindling number of shoppers — independent British brands and retailers have forged ahead in the last week, unveiling new concept spaces.
They are all bursting with color and optimism, from Mira Mikati’s new rainbow-hued store in South Kensington, the brand’s first permanent retail foray, to Koibird’s new concept highlighting Lagos Fashion Week and Natasha Zinko’s all-pink souvenirs and takeaway shop in Mayfair.
Here, a roundup of the most noteworthy openings. As the U.K. awaits the inevitable announcement of stricter lockdown measures and some stores decide to close of their own accord, these are some names worth remembering and supporting with a visit — post-crisis, naturally.
Mira Mikati has always been one of the loudest advocates of feel-good fashion, with her child-like illustrations, rainbow motifs and flair for bright, clashing colors. She wanted to channel the same “feel better vibes” in her new South Kensington store, not far from Chanel, Canada Goose and MSGM.
Mikati teased her retail ambitions last year with a pop-up store created in collaboration with Colette founder and consultant Sarah Andelman, but now she is bringing her full vision to life with a permanent space that doubles as a playground for adults and children alike and a varied retail offer that spans fashion, food and art.
“The label is all about positivity, optimism, colors and happiness. As a lifestyle brand, my aim was to create an experimental space that wouldn’t just be a retail shop but more a playground where one can shop, re-energise discover new things all in one space, nicknamed the happy house for providing a constant supply of happiness,” said Mikati, who hosted a launch last week while taking all necessary precautions. “I was very surprised to see many people turned out, I feel that people were looking to escape what is currently going on in the world, looking for some feel-good moments in the aim of ending the negative energy that has been going around.”
The 790-square-foot space features rainbow-hued chairs and a staircase, life-size dolls and a bright, patterned floor and seesaw in its courtyard created by the color-obsessed artist Yinka Ilori.
Apart from Mikati’s own ready-to-wear collections, the store stocks accessories by French label L/Uniform; a food corner by the popular chain Wild and the Moon; matcha teas and powders sourced from Brooklyn-based Kettl; Superflower’s CBD skin care, and a selection of books and home accessories.
“I decided to have everything that I love from food to other complementing happy brands. There will be different concepts and brands throughout the year but all around the same positive and optimistic vibe,” Mikati added.
Concept boutique Koibird — known for its destination-inspired themes that change every six months — has now reopened its doors for spring with a new concept spotlighting Lagos’ fashion scene. Lagos is the latest international inspiration for Koibird, which has so far transported its clients to the slopes, with alpine fashion edits, and to the beach, L.A. and South Korea.
The edit, in partnership with Lagos Fashion Week, features designers from across the continent, most of which were scouted during Lagos Fashion Week last season. They range from LVMH Prize-winner Thebe Magugu to Kenneth Ize, who made a buzzy Paris Fashion Week debut with Naomi Campbell’s support on the catwalk, and a wide-ranging series of names exclusive to Koibird in the U.K., such as Rich Mnisi, a rtw and furniture designer; streetwear label Wafflesncream, and Loza Maléombho, an Ivorian designer known for her feminine tailoring, which counts the likes of Solange as a fan.
“We attended Lagos Fashion Week to discover African brands making waves and were blown away by the talent, diversity and energy on show. Sustainability and a slow fashion model is one that designers employ naturally and we fell in love with brands from a number of Africa’s fashion capitals who take inspiration from their cultures to create a contemporary aesthetic,” said Belma Gaudio, the store’s founder and creative director.
In line with its new concept, the retailer, which is known for going all out with its interiors, has reimagined its Marylebone store with a black-and-white graphic theme inspired by the work of Senegalese artist Babacar Mbodj Niang.
It will be delving further into the lifestyle category with labels like Baba Tree, which offers baskets that are handwoven by Ghanaian artisans, and Moroccan ceramics by Bouchra Boudoua. It is also debuting its first vintage edit with pieces from the likes of Fendi, Moschino and Yves Saint Laurent.
Beyond the store, the African media platform Nataal will be taking over the retailer’s new blog to talk about “the continent’s contemporary culture.”
Natasha Zinko recently moved her London flagship to Dover Street, a location with higher footfall that offers her fledgling label more visibility. But with a few more months remaining on the lease of her previous Mayfair location on Maddox Street, Zinko, a sworn optimist, wanted to make the most of it.
She has brought to life a “takeaway and souvenirs” concept she’s had in mind for a while now: She built a bar with bright pink ceramics featuring the little piglet illustrations seen on her spring 2020 clothing; created chairs using leftover fabrics from her studio, and started serving matcha teas and ice cream, turmeric lattes and Napoleon cake, with a side of hoodies and T-shirts bearing the brand’s logo.
In the same way she has been pushing the sustainability agenda in her rtw collections, Zinko has taken an eco-friendly approach with her foray into food and beverage, too, using recycled caps and only producing small quantities of snacks every day to avoid food waste.
“These are all the healthy things I love to eat and you don’t find this kind of offer in Mayfair. We’re trying it out and if it works we could do a pop-up in our flagship store next, which has even better footfall or we can move it to Soho,” said Zinko, who will be operating the space until this summer.
Swedish men’s wear brand and retailer Très Bien opened its first concept store in London’s Soho area, right across from JW Anderson’s flagship, another newcomer in the neighborhood. The store is discreetly located in a mews, off of buzzy Wardour Street, with no obvious branding or clothes displayed in the windows, save for its bright blue storefront.
“We want people to not be able to see what’s in the window. It’s like a neighborhood shop, where you need to walk in and get to know us,” said Simon Hogemann, who cofounded the business with his brother, Hannes.
The brothers are stocking their own label, as well as curating leading men’s wear names ranging from Stussy, to Craig Green and Dries Van Noten. “I wanted to cut through the selection and look at what’s the essence. There’s a bit of younger fashion energy, mixed with streetwear and contemporary pieces,” Hogemann added.
Their aim is to constantly change the store’s edits and offer exclusive capsules, hence the minimalist, adaptable interiors of the store that are also true to the Hogemann’s Swedish sensibility.
“It’s a blank canvas. Everything is movable and we could easily change things around to dedicate the space to one single brand. It’s a plus to be flexible and mobile,” said Hogemann, who is cooking up a partnership with Asics next. “We’ve been around for 15 years online, so we have a following for sure. We’re going to experiment and see what’s right for this year.”