Stella’s Sound

The de­signer has turned lux­ury re­tail on its head with med­i­ta­tion, pu­ri­fied air and biodegrad­able man­nequins.

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY SA­MAN­THA CONTI

Stella McCart­ney un­veils a new Lon­don flag­ship, com­plete with rocks, med­i­ta­tion verses and a sound­track from her fa­mous fa­ther, Sir Paul.

LON­DON — In a fre­netic two months that saw her de­clare in­de­pen­dence from long­time part­ner Ker­ing and dress the new Duchess of Sus­sex for the royal wed­ding re­cep­tion din­ner, Stella McCart­ney has also been re­think­ing lux­ury re­tail with a new store that turns many a cliché up­side-down.

On Tues­day, McCart­ney will open 23

Old Bond Street, a 7,500-square-foot store in the for­mer Joseph space that mixes up rocks and foam, sil­i­cone and moss, faux fur the shade of bub­blegum and wood re­cov­ered from the Vene­tian la­goon.

The store, which McCart­ney and her team de­signed them­selves, is about hu­mil­ity and au­then­tic­ity, the an­tique and the high-tech. There's also a dash of Paul McCart­ney rhythm on the spi­ral stair­case; lessons from Bob Roth, the de­signer's med­i­ta­tion teacher, piped into a dress­ing room — and a metaphor­i­cal bear hug await­ing all cus­tomers.

Dur­ing an ex­clu­sive walk-through of the store — which car­ries all of the de­signer's col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing men's wear, kids' cloth­ing, lin­gerie and the Adi­das collection — McCart­ney de­scribed the space as a home from home and said it “car­ries a lot of weight,” in all senses of the word.

“You can see weight all around the store in the form of rocks from my kids, from my dad's farm in Scot­land, from around Bri­tain,” she said, re­fer­ring to the dra­matic rock­ery on the ground floor, which is cur­rently sur­rounded by re­claimed moss from the Chelsea Flower Show and thyme from McCart­ney's own gar­den.

“The whole idea is that you're com­ing a step closer to na­ture by be­ing here. We're try­ing to clean up the planet. That's part of our prom­ise as a fash­ion house, to be clean and cre­ate change,” she said. Shiny and rough hunks of black lime­stone have been dot­ted around the four-floor store and there's an en­closed gar­den ter­race on the first floor with an­nual and sea­sonal plant­ings, in­clud­ing birch trees and ferns.

“What I wanted to do was to bring peo­ple off the streets from the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city, and try and wrap my arms around them, hug them. I re­ally want to have the ex­pe­ri­ence of every­thing that we are at Stella McCart­ney, of bring­ing peo­ple in and hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the con­sumer, with a hu­man. To have a mo­ment of pause and re­flec­tion is the point of the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

She's spliced her eco­log­i­cal val­ues with a great sense of fun, lin­ing the walls of the build­ing's el­e­va­tor, known as the “Stellava­tor,” with fuzzy pink fake fur from a past collection, while the up­stairs women's wear area is covered with hand­made papier-mâché re­cy­cled from her of­fice pa­per waste.

One of the dress­ing rooms has walls covered in the stitched hand­prints of the Stella McCart­ney staff, while a pri­vate space up­stairs is adorned with clay sculp­tures made by staff. Other walls are covered in rip­pled con­crete or just the pocked raw stuff that builders found when they pulled back the old shop­fit. McCart­ney said she plans to project na­ture films — time lapses of flow­ers or dol­phins — onto that con­crete when the store is up and run­ning.

The shop, which re­places McCart­ney's 15-year-old store on nearby Bru­ton Street, is also the first in­door com­mer­cial space in Lon­don to use Air­labs tech­nol­ogy, a fil­ter­ing process that removes 95 per­cent of pol­lu­tants and gasses from the air.

McCart­ney was go­ing for a mul­ti­sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence, too: Her fa­ther wrote a “sound col­lage” that's au­di­ble on the big raw steel stair­case that winds up­ward through the build­ing, and dif­fer­ent types of mu­sic play­ing de­pend­ing on where cus­tomers hap­pen to be stand­ing.

The de­signer said that au­dio is a “mas­sive thing” for her and the last thing she wanted was an “am­bi­ent store ex­pe­ri­ence,” hence the orig­i­nal Paul McCart­ney mu­sic play­ing on the stair­case. “My dad made me three hours of mu­sic that's just for here. He gave me rocks and then he gave me some­thing to rock out too.”

There's also a scratchy, “messed-with” mu­sic mix seep­ing through the con­crete wall at the en­trance, as well as speak­ers be­hind the mir­rors, im­planted into the fur­ni­ture and into the stair­case.

“Every­thing from the minute you walk in should be sen­sual, so I want you to touch every­thing, I don't want you to be afraid of any­thing, I don't want any­one to come here and feel like they have to be al­lowed to be here. You don't have to buy when you come here, you don't have to be in­ter­ested in fash­ion. I don't care who you are, what race or age or gen­der you are. You are wel­come here and we em­brace you,” said McCart­ney, who was buzzing with en­ergy dur­ing the tour.

To wit, there is squishy foam fur­ni­ture made from re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als that en­cour­ages shop­pers to flop down, and a ball pool and climb­ing wall down­stairs for kids. The fur­ni­ture up­stairs is sen­sual: big, soft vin­tage Ital­ian so­fas covered in rose vel­vet — a McCart­ney sig­na­ture color — and a match­ing rug for a Sev­en­ties feel.

The store also marks the start of an­other new chap­ter for McCart­ney: She's of­fi­cially launch­ing a bridal collection, although she's been do­ing wed­ding dresses pri­vately for cus­tomers for years. She is also of­fer­ing a spe­cial “Made with Love” cap­sule collection based on the shoul­der-less evening gown she made for the Duchess of Sus­sex's wed­ding re­cep­tion din­ner.

McCart­ney is do­ing a version of the dress in onyx and lily white, both of which are made from sus­tain­able vis­cose. The collection will be avail­able by ap­point­ment only start­ing June 13 for one week, and will then evolve into a Made with Love wed­ding collection for spring 2019. Later this week, the Duchess dresses will be show­cased in a sep­a­rate part of the store — on the top floor over­look­ing Old Bond Street — known as Mem­bers and Non Mem­bers Only Club. It's a mu­ta­ble space that McCart­ney plans to use for per­sonal ap­point­ments, events, per­for­mances and ac­ti­va­tions.

In the club, which is by in­vi­ta­tion, McCart­ney also plans to give her guests a key to a pri­vate drawer that con­tains a gift. “Some­thing per­sonal ei­ther from me or the team. It's just a ges­ture - it's not like you're go­ing to get a di­a­mond or a check in there - but it's an­other reach out mo­ment, a touch point. And that's re­ally what this store is: a touch point.”

Even when they're not in the pri­vate space, guests will be able to count on spe­cial gifts from McCart­ney. Women chang­ing on the first floor will be able to tap into med­i­ta­tion mas­ter Roth's rhyth­mic, sooth­ing words.

“For me, if you get into a chang­ing room I feel like you de­serve some lit­tle re­ward. You should have a more per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with me be­cause you're hav­ing a more per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with my prod­uct. So when you come into the store you should meet me and have a re­flec­tion of who I am and what re­ally touched me. Bob Roth is a great friend of mine: He's taught my chil­dren to med­i­tate and I med­i­tate with him, I've been do­ing it for 20 years or so. So it should be a med­i­ta­tive mo­ment, too, when you get in the chang­ing room.”

McCart­ney is set­ting up other cus­tomer-fo­cused fea­tures such as a new loy­alty pro­gram, per­son­al­iza­tion on cer­tain items, styling, concierge ser­vices for Lon­don, home de­liv­ery, tai­lor­ing and al­ter­ations, and click and col­lect ser­vices.

“I'm not try­ing to say that I'm do­ing this bet­ter than any­one or be­fore any­one, or in a more heart­felt way. It's just that it's real, and I re­ally mean it. I think I am one of the few women who has their name on a fash­ion house these days, who is alive and en­gaged. And why shouldn't I mean it? Why shouldn't I pour my blood, sweat, guts and hard-earned money into this store, and it be a to­tal re­flec­tion of how I feel and think?” asked the de­signer.

“This has been one of the hard­est things I've ever done in my ca­reer, this store, and it's be­cause I've taken it so se­ri­ously. I could've just opened an­other store, but I chose these things my­self, and when I came here I said that if this store is a dis­as­ter, it all falls on me.”

Stella McCart­ney’s 23 Old Bond Street

store in Lon­don.

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