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Liberty’s magical menswear makeover

Liberty London Menswear

Get a first look inside the luxury department stores revamped menswear floor, as buyer Laura Robertshaw reveals her new strategy for the space.

“Welcome to our new home,” beams a proud sales assistant as I make my way down Liberty London’s grand spiralling staircase and into its newly relaunched – and almost finished – lower-ground floor menswear department on its opening day earlier this month.

The impressive project is the biggest investment in the men’s floor in Liberty’s 142-year history, and its first facelift in 14 years. It is also the latest development in a busy year for the store: accessories and beauty, childrenswear, haberdashery and “cook and dine” areas have all been made over, while the interiors and womenswear floors will be relaunched by October.

Far from just a lick of paint, menswear has undergone large-scale structural changes and 1,000 sq ft of new shop floor has been added, while a fresh buying strategy has been implemented by new menswear buyer Laura Robertshaw, who joined in January from Harvey Nichols.

Working with design practice Daytrip, the intention was to reinstate founder Arthur Liberty’s original plan for a homely, comfortable atmosphere within the store. The result is a stylish balance between traditional Liberty quirks and fresh, modern additions that mix the store’s elegant grandeur and artful original features with rougher, masculine updates.

Quirky mismatched vintage furniture is grouped in new “pause point” areas throughout, alongside almost 60 vintage rugs sourced by Liberty buyer Bruce Lepere. The three clothing rooms, footwear space and accessories section each have their own identity, but share recurring motifs – classic Liberty prints and William Morris patterns that make statements as wallpapered corners; luxuriantly heavy changing room curtains; newly discovered original fireplaces; and ornate wood panelling – which combine to create the desired homely feel.

In contrast, modern illustrative art, rough concrete, charred black wood, untreated metals and expanses of mirrored glass add a modern flavour, but in a rough, undone style. It does not have the shimmering bling of its competitors, but its contrast of unique heritage and quirky design-led modernity is a smart, masculine new look for Liberty.

“We really wanted it to feel like you were shopping in your own home. Eighty-one per cent of our customers are from London and they’re super-loyal, so we really wanted them to be comfortable and feel at home,” says Robertshaw.

More entry-level prices have been introduced to help woo a younger shopper, while a switch from “shirting and knitwear-focused” buying to a more casual approach is apparent.

“Previously we never had a single tracksuit on the shop floor, but we’ve bought into that trend in, adding some more nods to sportswear, casual style,” adds Robertshaw.

“I think newness is very important. You need to keep the customer interested and expecting something new. We need to keep them on their toes,” she says of the 20 new brands – including Canada Goose, Études Studio, Helbers, Helmut Lang, Maison Kitsuné, Marni, Matthew Miller and Wood Wood – she has added. “Even though we have all this newness, we are still always thinking about our core customer and catering for the Liberty man. But now, when he comes every few weeks – they really are that loyal – we will always have something new and fresh.”

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

“A lot of the brands [in this room] were doing the same job and in some categories overlapping. We didn’t need a white Oxford shirt and navy jumper from each one, so I went to each appointment trying to buy each brand differently,” says Robertshaw. Now this casual, contemporary room aims for an “easy style offering something for everyone”.

Structural changes mean the entrance to this room, from Liberty’s iconic wooden staircase, is much more open, creating a greater sense of space. The introduction of wooden beams adds a touch of heritage, while new multi-height clothing rails creates variety for the eye.

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

A huge green rug and matching painted ceiling breathes life into the once-dark designer room, while pushing the till to the back of the room creates a feeling of more light and space. Wood panels and clad pillars are freshened up in crisp white, with artist Stephen Doherty sketches decorating them.

“People come to us for something different, so it’s nice to be able to go and buy the less-safe pieces. We’ve definitely bought into the ‘wow’ pieces,” says Robertshaw of the designer room, which also houses Liberty’s dedicated Dries Van Noten and Acne areas. “But we’ve also bought a bit more of a contemporary feel to the room, introducing a bit of a bridge element with brands like Oamc, Daniel W Fletcher and Matthew Miller.”

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

The denim wall has been designed for ease of shopping: each style hangs so shoppers can appreciate wash and fit, while each size is arranged in pigeon box-style shelves above.

A new Ruffians barbershop will replace the one run by Murdock London within this casualwear room, which has been moved and expanded into a former stockroom. Barbershop chairs will be doubled to six, and a seating and coffee area added. Lifestyle products, starting with books, will also be introduced.

A staircase that was previously inaccessible to the public has been opened up, and leads down into this space from the stationery room on the floor above.

“We wanted to bring back that destination feel to the denim room, so bought in Japanese brands to bring more of a niche edge,” says Robertshaw. “We’re also trying to attract a younger customer, so a slightly lower price point has been introduced here.” These entry-level prices will be seen particularly in the T-shirt “gallery”, which will feature new designs created exclusively for Liberty by brands.

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

The footwear room, which is still managed as a concession by Kurt Geiger, has undergone one of the biggest transformations. Almost doubled in size, extra width has been gained by taking over former stock rooms, while the length of the former corridor-like space has been reduced slightly. The mix of materials and textures used throughout is typified in this room, with concrete, wood and metal combined with vintage furniture and classic Liberty print decoration.

The revamped but unfinished accessories room houses the store’s new approach to display units, repurposing vintage cases but with the glass removed to create a more casual approach to showing off products. This room will also soon house a dedicated Liberty London product area, including a focus on sleepwear and a brand new underwear range, launching in December. A large sunglasses wall will also be added, meaning men no longer have to shop for these in the womenswear-focused accessories area upstairs.

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

Liberty London Menswear

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