Savile Row styling with stacks of personality makes Start’s third store the perfect suit shop for a younger generation.
Slick, elegant, composed and bang on trend. These are words that describe the dashing figure cut by Philip Start, the founder of branded men’s retail pioneer Woodhouse and now the owner of the Start boutique in London’s Shoreditch.
With the opening of his third shop (co-owned with wife Brix Smith-Start, who was once guitarist in cult indie band The Fall) it is clear that Start’s fingerprints are deeply imprinted on the store design. Just like its owner, the shop combines a sense of reserved elegance with a quirky edge. Upstairs the bare brick walls host bespoke, industrial-style display units with bright Mondrian-esque squares offering vivid bolts of colour. Bowler hat lampshades add a surreal touch redolent of the artist Magritte, while a mirror by the changing rooms has LEDs built in.
The furniture is dark, antique wood, which provides a retro juxtaposition with the neon signage.
Downstairs there is less contrast of styles and the luxe factor comes to the fore. But Smart is not just a destination for Savile Row wannabes. For despite the wood panelling and crimson walls, the plush upholstered chairs, coffee tables and lamps, there is still a maverick spirit. Start says: “It is old school. It’s a bit early-1950s and the colours are a bit decadent, but this is not Jermyn Street; I didn’t want to just use those old traditional reference points.”
The man to explain the look in more detail is the store’s designer, another Philip, Philip Oakley. He took Start’s vision for a sophisticated shop and delivered it in a mixture of high-spec gold glass (which looks just like it sounds) and Ikea cabinets. “The costs for a job like this can run away, so it’s important to be thoughtful about what you need to do,” Oakley says. He explains that the colour scheme and the lighting work in tandem.
The product, which includes styles from Balenciaga, Jil Sander, shirt brand Poggianti and tailoring from Aquascutum, is dominated by Mr Start, a menswear label that exudes Start’s own style.
There are two main looks. One is the slim lapelled, 1960s-inspired nipped-in look, while the other is a slightly more forgiving three-piece. The rails are filled with black and grey tailoring, with white shirts and little variation on colour for ties and socks. Style rules appear conformist although the bespoke service allows customers to freestyle. A yellow suit perhaps? No problem, one of the shop assistants here has even ordered their own.
There is a plethora of quirky and distinct design touches used to create the store’s personality, but Start unhesitatingly has a favourite part. “The furniture,” he says. “I found six matching units in a secondhand shop that I sometimes go to. I already knew what I was looking for and to find six pieces together was a nice surprise.” And a nice surprise is just what Start’s regulars will get when they cross the road to this unique east London shop.
1,500 sq ft: The size of the new store
£59.50: The lowest retail ticket in the store, for a tie
£1,200: The highest price tag, for a made-to-measure suit