LONDON — Stavros Karelis likes nothing better than going where few fashion retailers have gone before — and taking a risk on emerging talent for his independent multilabel concept boutique Machine-A, in London’s Soho. The shop, at 13 Brewer Street, spans 700 square feet and stocks men’s and women’s wear brands ranging from Gosha Rubchinskiy, Cottweiler and Expert Horror to Chalayan, Raf Simons and Mugler.
While many retailers tend to be risk-averse, favoring labels with a well-established customer base, Karelis said he is speaking to a customer who is “willing to spend on a lot of the unknown brands and young, emerging designers. They want to collect them from the beginning and grow with them, because ultimately they will become the future of fashion. It’s great to be able to buy those collections from the beginning.”
Karelis, cofounder and buying director, launched Machine-A in 2013 with Anna Trevelyan, the store’s fashion director.
“In retail you always have the challenge on how you remain at the frontline,” said Karelis. “And how you remain is to always push the boundaries and offer to your customers the best possible merchandising — with the best possible pricing. I think in that sense we have tried to represent and showcase every young designer that is coming along.”
Karelis has described his customer as “very experienced, and quite familiar with fashion. They’re very interested in buying the show pieces — the bigger pieces. They want them from the catwalk. Other retailers may be a bit afraid to buy those pieces because they involve a bigger amount of risk if they can’t sell them.”
Best-selling items include Raf Simons’ oversized shirts, aprons and dungarees; Craig Green’s robes; J.W. Anderson’s accessories, and Margiela’s Tabi boots — designed with its signature cleft toe. New brands that Karelis has picked up include Swiss fashion label Ottolinger, Vejas Kruszewski’s label Vejas, Noir by Kei Ninomiya — one of the newer members of the Comme des Garçons family of brands — and unisex label Delada. His customers are international and span from stylists and creative directors to designers, celebrities and students.
“I am not sure if we have ever had something that was considered too avant-garde that our customers didn’t buy,” he added. “During London Fashion Week, Judy Blame took over our windows. He did an installation with all his accessories and statement pieces such as the berets, key rings and heavy necklaces. We never expected that these items would sell, as previously they were exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. However, we had such a great demand from collectors and customers that was one of the most successful collaborations we did.”
Machine-A works in partnership with ShowStudio, which provides an online shopping platform for the boutique and works with the retailer on other creative collaborations, including a virtual 3-D experience in store.
Karelis worked with set designer Andrea Cellerino on the minimalist store interiors, and has mounted a number of installations in the store in the past. He has worked with Alyx by Matthew Williams and MM6 by Margiela, both of whom have designed the windows.
Prices range from 50 pounds, or $60, for a Gosha Rubchinskiy T-shirt to 1,875 pounds, or $2,278, for a Y-Project dress. While Karelis declined to provide sales figures, he said that business is good, with a 50 percent uplift compared with last year.