As the third phase of the Harrods “men’s revolution” opens, head of menswear Simon Longland discusses the strategy behind the relocation and redevelopment of the iconic department store’s men’s offer.
“From running shorts to a bespoke suit, there will be something for every man,” says Harrods head of menswear Simon Longland. “The ambition is to create the ultimate menswear destination.”
Longland, a 12-year veteran of the department store, is referring to the “men’s revolution” currently taking place at Harrods. It is a multi-phase redevelopment of menswear and part of a bigger four-year “master plan” project, under which 60% of the Knightsbridge building will eventually be “re-imagined”.
For Longland, this means relocating and consolidating the menswear department into one home on Harrods’ second floor, replacing homeware, which is moving to the third floor. Menswear previously occupied three separate areas inconveniently spread across the same number of different floors.
“This project is a recognition that menswear is, [as a business overall and at Harrods], undergoing a huge transformation, and the potential is significant,” says Longland. “The ambition is to create the ultimate menswear destination, so when the guy comes in and asks for men’s, there is one home for everything.”
The first phase of the new 155,000 sq ft menswear floor opened in November 2018 with the unveiling of the glitzy “super brands” area, offering labels such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford and Gucci. Next came the first designer room, which opened in February 2019, featuring “timeless” brands such as Ralph Lauren, Brunello Cucinelli and Giorgio Armani.
The third phase – a second, 19,000 sq ft designer space – opened this month and is “the opposite of the first”, explains Longland. “It’s a very fashion-forward environment. The brands within this new space present a variety of aesthetics [and are] the directional, agenda-setting brands dominating menswear today. Some have a more streetwear DNA, some are more sartorial or even avant garde. The Harrods customer really wants ‘fashion’.”
It houses 12 dedicated “boutiques” from brands such as Moncler, Givenchy, Off-White and Loewe, while a multi-brand space includes rising stars of London Fashion Week Men’s Craig Green and Edward Crutchley, alongside labels including OAMC and Amiri, and big fashion names, among them Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Maison Margiela and Dries Van Noten.
Two 750 sq ft pop-up areas in this new room will rotate once a month, featuring diverse products not limited to clothing, footwear or accessories, including tech, fragrances, watches and whiskeys, with the aim to “always offer something surprising and unusual”.
With more phases still to open in 2020 – including footwear and accessories – the relocation of menswear has afforded Longland and his team a fresh start to shape the department from scratch, allocating space and areas “to suit the way men shop today”, he says.
The result is what he calls a “lifestyle mix”, where brands and products are grouped by aesthetic rather than category, and doing away with traditional segmentations such as tailoring or casualwear: “The behaviour of male shoppers is totally different today. Customers come into store with images of a T-shirt or a sneaker on their phone that they have seen and ‘need’. And the younger customer in particular is not shopping because of function, it’s more of a want. They enjoy shopping.”
In line with this, the new menswear floor will feature two food and drink options – a pizzieria has already opened, but the second is yet to be announced – a barber and personal shopping space, as well as changing rooms built with social shopping in mind.
Longland says that outerwear is currently “flying out”, ‘It’ items – including exclusives from Off-White, Loewe and Acne Studios and more – are driving sales, and a return to an “elegant sartorial” look is taking hold.
The design of the new floor also reflects this new attitude to menswear, where boundaries have been blurred and shoppers want sportswear and suits in equal measure. The entire floor has been designed by David Collins Studio, and one over-arching concept creates consistency across the building’s labyrinthine spaces. For instance, huge expanses of marble in reoccurring black, white and grey shine in various geometric formations across the different rooms, accented by walnut wood and touches of blue stone, segmenting areas while creating a sense of flow through the space.
Competition is only getting tougher in the luxury menswear market, from rivals including nearby Knightsbridge neighbour Harvey Nichols and Selfridges over on Oxford Street, as well as the online players such as Mr Porter and the luxe upstarts: influential independent End opened in central London last October, and was joined by Sports Direct-owned Flannels in September.
But it is pleasing to see Harrods turn up the dial for its menswear floor – standing out with an impressive, boldly luxurious look that remains true to its glamorous DNA in a world of simple white box shops and Scandi-style makeovers. The Harrods man wants fashion and luxury, and the department store’s new menswear floor certainly delivers.