Its reopening resurrected 70 years of retail history, but this time there is a younger edge at cashmere retailer N Peal.
When N Peal’s store in London’s Burlington Arcade closed at the end of last year after US owner General Atlantic’s decision to fold the business, it looked like the end of the line for the 70-year-old British cashmere brand.
But in January cashmere specialist Adam Holdsworth and business partner Nick Falkingham, who together run direct mail business Pure Cashmere Collection, acquired the brand and goodwill, and renegotiated the lease on the store, which was first opened by N Peal founder Nat Peal in 1936 in the historic arcade just off Piccadilly.
Holdsworth then began the search for a new creative director who could inject a contemporary edge into the classic brand. He appointed designers and sisters Aimee and Sara Berman (the latter already has her own womenswear brand), who also had a hand in the revamp of the store that reopened in September. “We felt it was a good marriage to bring a heritage brand that had suffered from a lack of forward direction together with a very fashionable pair of younger designers,” explains Holdsworth.
The business now retails across three floors and 1,000sq ft in the 188-year-old arcade. Its basement is dedicated to womenswear basics, the ground floor features both womenswear and menswear, while the first floor houses fitting rooms and is currently being used to showcase the collection. Kidswear will occupy the first floor when it arrives in January.
Previously, N Peal retailed only from the basement and ground floor, and the store’s look was generic. Now, as with the collection, the shopfit is a fusion of old and new. “It was important for us to stamp our identity on it. It was about putting elements of the heritage in a modern context,” says Holdsworth.
The result is a sense of kitsch opulence in the womenswear department, with black lacquer fixtures and leopard print and fuchsia furnishings, while the menswear area has a quirky gentlemen’s club feel, featuring a stag’s head mounted above a fireplace.
In terms of the collection, the majority of styles are drawn from previous ranges. But the Bermans’ handwriting is clearly visible on new styles, including black belted cashmere dresses with contrasting cuffs and collars in cream or fuchsia, and oversized roll necks. Brighter colours have also been introduced across the 42-piece womenswear and 35-piece menswear ranges in a bid to attract younger 20- and 30-something customers.
Holdsworth is also hoping to revive the brand’s wholesale business from autumn 08 with a focus on department stores and larger independents in the UK. He is also eyeing key international markets such as Italy, France and the US, where Nat Peal once built up a customer base that included Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy.
But for the time being, N Peal’s die-hard fans are just pleased to see the store reopened. “To sever 70 years of trading would have been criminal,” says Holdsworth.
37-40 Burlington Arcade, London W1J