Our guilty lunchtime habit Matchesfashion.com thinks it knows what the future of luxury shopping looks like — and it’s as much about community and collaboration as cash transactions. JAMIE HUCKBODY enters 5 Carlos Place
Matchesfashion.com builds a temple to fashion.
“Everybody is looking for community and home because I think everybody’s feeling a bit lost with the world.” – JESS CHRISTIE
There’s a revolution happening in Mayfair. Just down the road from Balenciaga and right oppositethe Connaught hotel (where personal butlers are provided as part of the stealth-wealth service), it is a revolution that is unfolding discreetly, behind the polite facade of an Edwardian townhouse: No. 5 Carlos Place.the protagonist? Matchesfashion.com, the luxury retailer whose website alone attracts some 100 million visitors a year, from more than 170 countries, and which drives 95 per cent of all the company’s sales.
“We have always wanted to combine the very best of both physical and digital shopping experiences under one roof, and that’s exactly what we have achieved with 5 Carlos Place,” says Ulric Jerome, the Paris-born CEO of Matchesfashion.com, with more than a soupçon of pride.“and so, a year and a half ago we decided it was time to find a permanent home, a symbolic, well-located space where we could personally interact with our customers while offering the choice and convenience that comes with digital.”
Fast-forward some 18 months and fashion’s best kept secret is open for business: a seamless fusion of product (carefully edited from more than 450 designers/brands), digital content and smart tech with consumer events and broadcasting .“the door here is always open,” Jerome continues. “You walk into the space and you really feel like you’re at home. It’s beautiful. And the technology is not in your face.”
He’s not fibbing. As you enter the handsome five-storey, 2130 square metre building, which has been lovingly restored by P. Joseph architects (one of the practice’s partners, Philip Joseph, is Erdem’s other half, incidentally), you swipe your smartphone onto a QR code that activates the Matchesfashion.com app. (If, like me, you don’t have it, it prompts you to download it.) While you’re enjoying the cheery “Hello. Insert your name here. Welcome to 5 Carlos Place” that pops up on your screen, staff can access your customer profile details, complete with the lust-haves on your wish list, your sizing and any recent purchases. Clever. The first two floors are retail spaces (complete with a vending machine that dispenses luxe novelties; Iud sic tao tree id li at seo cm use and per na ad ta em matches and a MarineS err elighter“fo rye oxucer rip teodrf um mode itd at cu amndselqe us a” ti a while I was there ), displaying Matches fas hiovnel.ciposu mm’ sqeuxecpl lu as bi vileiq cu oils-it a laborations, which will change every two wsuesevkosl.otrahteurienhsetnadllaatdiuonntsur kicked off with Pr ad a—an appropriatechro em ic en steo ere isndgol au sttf ah co culg la hut Matches was Prada’s first ever UK s to ck ist.“oularnc toe lt laqbuiosruatt ions
are borne out of looking at what the customer is engaging with and what people are really responding to,” explains Natalie Kingham, Matchesfashion.com’s fashion and buying director, whose passion for what she does is infectious.“it all starts with the customer.”
“We wanted to create an environment where designers have freedom of expression within a retail space,” chimes in chief brand officer Jess Christie.“now, with Marine Serre, it looks completely different again.” (By the time you read this, a fine-jewellery installation will be in place, to be followed by Grace Wales Bonner’s Caribbean extravaganza, and then a Hillier Bartley launch.) Browsing Serre’s fusion of athleticism and functionality (favourite item? The Ball bag, with its silk-scarf handle), you come across other discreetly placed QR codes that enable you to discover content (runway videos and shoppable product pages), as well as ipads on which you can shop the full Matchesfashion.com inventory. “Anything you like can be delivered within 90 minutes to one of the four private shopping suites that are across two floors — even if it’s just to try stuff on,” says Christie, who has been instrumental in redefining personal shopping for the 21st century.“we wanted to give a fuller experience to our customers — not just offer them a glass of champagne in a personal dressing room — so we have really focused on events and a cultural program, because we know our customers want to go on a journey of discovery with us.”
And this is where the use of tech at 5 Carlos Place really comes into its own.“you can be in Sydney, Newyork, Singapore or Perth and connect directly to us through our website and go to a new category called ‘What’s On’,” Jerome says. “There, you can see everything that’s going on in the house and you can follow the livestream of the panel discussions or listen to the podcasts we produce.” It is 5 Carlos Place’s broadcasting ability and the galvanising effect that has on Matchesfashion.com’s global community that Jerome is most proud of. “Nobody has done that before: created a physical retail space whose entirety can be used as a broadcasting hub,” he says. “Now, everything we do is broadcastable so that we can reach out to the wider global audience.the exclusivity is within the nature of the content.the inclusivity is our reach.”
The events program will run all year, with highlights from the late October and November schedules including Mary Katrantzou’s 10th-anniversary cocktail party (with the launch of an exclusive capsule collection of archival pieces); a Designer Pyjama Party to celebrate the launch of a pyjama collection; and something billed as ‘Modern Blends with The Herball’, where a team of contemporary herbalists, nutritionists and aromatherapists will create custom botanical potions, scents and elixirs “to relax, restore and revive”. Sign me up.
“Everybody wants to discover the new. And if the newness and discovery can be frequent, with the ability for people to see it’s coming from an authentic space, then people will engage,” Jerome says. “Of course, we are very careful about what kind of content we produce. So, there will be masterclasses with a Michelin-star chef or a flower-arranging expert.i think social media has emphasised our curiosity and created so many opportunities to discover and to open doors — both physical and virtual — we didn’t know were there.”
A lot of this activity will take place on 5 Carlos Place’s top floor — the attic — which is home to the broadcasting hub, the cafe (Aussie superchef Skye Gyngell recently hosted an intimate supper club with biodynamic produce there), and a huge cabinet of curiosities: the
“Nobody has done that before: created a physical retail space whose entirety can be used as a broadcasting hub.” – ULRIC JEROME
physical manifestation of podcast series The Collector’s House, in which Danielle Radojcin, Matchesfashion.com’s director of programs and broadcasting, speaks every week to a different creative about their five most prized items.“i found myself listening to an amazing sustainability discussion the other day with a panel chaired by Livia Firth [of consultancy firm Eco-age],” Jerome enthuses. “She was interviewing two designers from our Innovators program, which Natalie launched more than a year ago.there was this conversation with customers and students which went right back to the original aim of the house: that it should be a very inclusive space.”
If Jerome is proud father to the broadcasting capabilities of Matchesfashion.com’s latest venture, then Kingham is proud mother to its Innovators program: a seasonal collective of four to five designers whose singular visions have inspired her. “I felt we needed to work with all these amazingly creative people who I was seeing for us to be true to ourselves as a credible fashion brand,” she says of the showcase, which this season includes Petersonstoop, Ingy Stockholm, Noki and Germanier. “It’s the only time I really go ‘off-piste’, but to do so seems relevant right now.” Kingham anticipates a warm reception from Australians, whom she credits with “a real appetite for choice”.
“Yes! Australians are very quick to take up digital innovations and to engage with social media activity,” Christie agrees, nodding vigorously.“they’ll be able to book a personal shopping appointment for 5 Carlos Place online if they’re travelling to London.they’re an important part of our family here at Matchesfashion.com.” Family. Community. Home. These words crop up time and again in conversation around 5 Carlos Place.“everybody is looking for community and home because I think everybody’s feeling a bit lost with the world,” Christie offers.
“The desire for ‘home’ says everything about life today,” Jerome adds. “Here, we are breaking that too-exclusive code around our industry so we can be more inclusive.there’s so much to learn and so much creativity out there. We want everybody in the world to participate in this conversation. It’s fun,
Clockwise from this image: a Private Shopping suite at 5 Carlos Place; a vending machine in the Matchesfashion.com x Marine Serre installation; a menswear display; a Private Shopping suite.
Carlos Place, Mayfair, with its Queen Anne-style facades. Above: a creative retail floor at 5 Carlos Place. Below: the Matchesfashion.com x Marine Serre installation.