So here’s an idea for a shop. Why not restrict the number of shoppers who can come in, and make them book an appointment to look around?
ADDRESS 18 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, London E8 2EZ
LOCATION A basement
NUMBER OF FLOORS One
ENTRY By appointment only
And why not overlook putting signs outside that indicate your shop is in a below-stairs location in a fashionable, but rough-and-ready part of east London? Sounds like something that wouldn’t make it past the starting blocks - yet it exists.
LN-CC (Late Night Chameleon Cafe) is a shop and website, both opened around three years ago. The shop holds about 10% of the online range and is in a basement, near Dalston Junction. As such, it functions as a ‘calling card’ for the virtual operation, but that doesn’t stop the average spend being close to £3,000 per visitor, according to a staff member.
Given its relatively modest size, this makes it a successful enterprise in a distinctly secondary location. And it has recently had a makeover.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Walking down the stairs, the stage is set by the wood offcut scaffolding that has been fashioned into a sort of retro time tunnel and flooded with orange light. Rooms set off from this are equally disconcerting. One has more scaffolding, with the garments hung amid them, while another has funereal-looking grey concrete, with garments around the perimeter. Two interior alterations have also been made. The first is a white space with garments sparingly displayed, and a sculpture fashioned from a giraffe’s skull and vertebrae. The other is another tunnel, mirrored and encased in neoprene, which is the setting for shoes and leather bags. The shop itself is the shop window, as there are no windows.
02 - CONCEPT
The idea of a highly selective shop that is almost a work of art in its own right is hardly new. That said, locating the store in a place where it has to function as a destination - it’s a long way away from Bond Street and its environs - is unusual. Nobody visiting this store is going to do so by accident and, given that it relies on editorial and word of mouth for its customers, the fact it thrives is testimony both to the impression it creates as a space and to the offer presented.
03 - SERVICE
Visiting LN-CC involves ringing or emailing to book an appointment. Having done this, the visitor is guided through the store by up to three people. This should not come as a surprise, given the highly upscale nature of the stock and the good chance that those making it to the store will be in buying mode. They will probably be helped by a glass or two of Mexican spirit mescal, which can be found at the newly opened wood-clad bar at the back of the shop. Shoppers are well looked after in this store. At these prices, they should be.
04 - PRODUCT
Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, Yang Li, Lanvin … Wander through LN-CC’s rooms and it’s almost like a roll call of names that combine cutting-edge design and wallet-voiding prices. This is not for the faint of heart and there really isn’t much that could be termed entry price. That said, one of the reasons why shoppers will make the trek
to Dalston is the nature of the buy - determinedly contemporary. If a break from the mainstream is sought, this is an interesting place to satisfy the craving.
05 - COMPETITION
There are a lot of stores selling vintage clothing in this part of London, but relatively few that offer full-price, label-led design. With this in mind, the competition for this shop is to be found, for the most part, in other parts of the capital, with Dover Street Market and, debatably, Liberty and Selfridges being in the running. There’s an iPad in LN-CC, so the broader range can be accessed online when staff are having a customer appointment - meaning there is
a lot more to this store offer than meets the Dalston eye. It is aimed at a very select crowd.
06 - VERDICT - THE PROSPECTS ARE GOOD
Few would deny that this is an exclusive and, in some ways, excluding concept. The fact it is only accessible to those who are in the know and that, even if you are part of this coterie, you’ll have to be as rich as Croesus in order to shop here, is to miss the point. The store being difficult to find makes this a fashion journey and the shop alone makes the trip worthwhile - there really is nothing else like this in the city. That said, booking an appointment and then leaving without buying anything would take a certain nerve. The phrase ‘no browsing’ springs to mind.