Go­ing Large

The Bond Street launch marks the start of a new chap­ter for Alexan­der McQueen, which plans to dou­ble its store net­work.

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - BY SAMAN­THA CONTI

Alexan­der McQueen has opened a flag­ship on Lon­don’s Bond Street that is four times big­ger than its pre­vi­ous unit.

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 hon­ey­toned, 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 pa­pier­mâché, 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-to­day 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.”

“We are com­plet­ing a cy­cle of com­pre­hen­sive brand align­ment around one cre­ative vi­sion as well as a fully in­te­grated re­tail or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

— EM­MANUEL GINTZBURGER, ALEXAN­DER MCQUEEN

The Alexan­der McQueen Bond Street store.

Out­side of the Alexan­der McQueen Bond Street store.

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