There are times when you feel your age. Normally this is when you walk into a store and see clothing that even in your most outré moments you probably wouldn’t consider because it is, well, just not for you.
Address 13 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F
Brands About 25 different labels
Ambience Modish minimalist
This is the case in Soho where a new shop going under the name Machine-A [its owners ran a previous incarnation called Digitaria] is likely to be for a select demographic - one that’s young, confident and unafraid to stick out from the crowd.
That said, although this may not have mass appeal, not least owing to some of the prices, unlike many of its ilk this is not an intimidating experience. The location at the wrong end of Brewer Street is curious - cheek by jowl with, errm, purveyors of ‘adult services’ - but you have to believe the faithful will beat a path here on their way to some of the area’s better eateries.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
From the outside, there is a retro feel to the black-painted window surround, but the white neon logo above the door gives the game away. It is immediately apparent that this store is all about fashion. The two windows are actually white boxes which, set against the black surround, focus the attention on the single mannequin that occupies the space in each. Walk in and the VM is about minimalist chic.
There isn’t a huge amount of stock but a lot of white space - expectations about the price level are set from the moment you cross the threshold. Almost all of the stock is side-hung with the garments that aren’t neatly folded in small piles towards the back of the shop. Glass cases or open-fronted wardrobes house the accessories.
02 - CONCEPT
The interior layout is simple. There’s a room that is mostly lit by natural daylight, and is connected by a small corridor to a room with no windows that is artificially lit. The latter has what is called “an installation”, but which is a sheet with a print on it, onto which green dots are projected from a machine. To this has been added a long counter, which doubles as a display cabinet. There is also shelving created from sheet steel. The pared-back interior forces the eye onto the stock.
03 - SERVICE
The busiest times on weekdays are between 4pm and 7pm, according to one of the two members of staff who were on hand on the day of visiting. As it was just after lunch, the staff and your correspondent were the only people in the shop and everything was looking just so. Numerous labels are stocked and the sales associates seemed to know all of them and why they had been selected. Not difficult perhaps, but this frequently proves not to be the case, even in the smallest shops.
04 - PRODUCT
Around 25 labels are stocked, ranging from T-shirts from the high-profile Raf Simons and pieces from Hussein Chalayan and Mugler, to the less well-known such as Alex Mattisson and Louise Gray. The point is that this is Soho and economising has no place when you head into Machine-A. It is also a mark of how carefully the ranges have been assembled that it is possible to team many of the pieces together while not looking as if you are trying too hard. As a source of something genuinely different, Machine-A does the job, albeit at a price.
05 - COMPETITION
As Machine-A offers menswear and womenswear there is a lot of competition across the whole of Soho (and it is Soho, rather than fringe Regent Street). That said, those choosing to frequent Machine-A will do so for the simple reason it is different - which should be the aim of any retailer that knows its customer and seeks to appeal to a specific area of the market. There really is nothing like this in the vicinity and given the slew of upscale menswear operators further along Brewer Street, the fact this store manages to stand apart on the strength of its collections must surely be a tick in the box for customers.
06 - VERDICT: THE PROSPECTS ARE GOOD
Variety is a fact of life in Soho and those with cash to spare who trawl the area will be in search of idiosyncratic pieces. More often than not, however, disappointment lurks on most corners as variations on a theme are encountered. Not so in Machine-A, where there is a sense that what’s on view really will be different and the quest for individuality will be satisfied. And in spite of this small store being a relatively simple affair, there is a feeling of calm about the interior, aided by the helpful staff. Machine-A could well become a real destination.