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COS promises unique offer as it makes its debut in London

Swedish fashion chain H&M opened its first COS store this week, which it believes will give customers a unique offer on the UK high street.

The London Regent Street store represents the global debut of the more upmarket concept, which offers ready-to-wear designs for men and women with retail prices from £20 for shirts to £240 for men's suits.

It will be followed by a northern European roll-out in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium at the end of March.

Head of womenswear Rebekka Bay told Drapers that COS was aiming for daily store deliveries to keep merchandise fresh and maintain the initial buzz. "We have taken the best from H&M's business model and have taken it to a different level, while maintaining the same high-energy feel," she said.

Bay added that because 80% of production is based in Europe - predominantly in Portugal, Spain and Turkey - COS would be able to keep its manufacturing costs in check by using ex-H&M factories that had become too small or too expensive.

"We felt there was a gap between the high street and high fashion," said Bay. "We source quality fabrics, fit the styles two or three times, and add clever detailing and a unique shopping experience. In terms of production, we have a very tight set-up, with production offices in all our markets so we can control what's going on."

COS's collection will be based around two seasonal ranges, split into weekly, then ultimately daily, deliveries using H&M's existing logistics and IT networks.

Store designer William Russell from Pentagram, which created the COS shopfit, said his remit had been to come up with a "very classy and elegant" store, with an exceptional, high-quality finish.

The shopfit features larch wood, white oak and concrete, as well as dark metal railings to separate space and create the feeling of several rooms on each floor. There is a 35-strong team dedicated to the launch of COS, working out of London offices.

COS: THE DRAPERS VERDICT

Streamlined and utilitarian, COS's luxurious detailing and attention to fit should guarantee its success.

The main focus is on everyday pieces such as easy shirts, smocks, T-shirts, knits, and relaxed trousers and skirts, which comprise 45% of the range. A further 30% is made up of business attire, which is particularly strong, while the remaining 25% is split between sportswear, casual loungewear and party clothes.

A restrained palette of white, black, dove grey, oatmeal, putty and pewter is used on pared-down round-collar dresses with puckered bracelet-length sleeves, trumpet-shaped shorts and slouchy knits for layering. Meanwhile, the men's formalwear offer includes slim-fit 2sb suits and boxy 1940s-inspired turn-up trousers.

But it is with classic basics that COS comes into its own. The store could become UK consumers' first port of call for silky pima cotton jersey tops and T-shirts, ultra-light fine gauge knits, crisp white shirts and 100% cashmere, all at wallet-friendly prices.

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