The premium LA denim brand has opened a UK flagship in central London, but the shopfit might not convince customers it justifies the price tags
When you walk into a store to pick up a pair of jeans, it’s probable that a sub-£100 figure will be in your head as, after all, it’s a denim garment and it can’t be that expensive. Well, actually it can and a quick scoot around the new
7 For All Mankind flagship store will do much to dispel the notion that denim is an intrinsically inexpensive way of being fashionable.
This is top-end stuff and perhaps, given that the brand has taken a large store on Regent Street, it has to be - rents tend to be at the far end of pricey in this neck of the woods. This is possibly why this site became vacant. Prior to the arrival of 7 For All Mankind a couple of weeks ago, this was the flagship for George Davies’ GIVe venture, which he axed at retail to switch to a wholesale model this year, resulting in the closure of the store in October.
The transformation from mid-market fashion retailer for women of a certain age to slick, US denim brand seems to have happened overnight. It hasn’t, of course, although getting the space fitted out and trading has taken little more than a month, but given that Regent Street visits are infrequent for most people, this might seem to be the case.
7 For All Mankind was established a decade ago in Los Angeles and was bought by brand house VF Corporation in 2007.
Merchandise and key looks
First things first. What’s the entry price for those wishing to join the 7 For All Mankind club? If it’s jeans you seek, then £165 will secure a pair of classic New York Dark stretch jeggings, while a another jegging style goes for £195. This sounds pricey, but if the mood takes you and you are prepared to splash out, a pair of Italian-made jeans, suitably beaten up, will set you back £305. At this price there are just two styles under the 777 moniker - and there are just 777 pairs in circulation, hence, perhaps, the price.
It’s worth noting that the collection on show in Regent Street divides into two, with classic stylings, almost entirely denim, emanating from the US while the more expensive and modish pieces are Italian. About a third of what is on view is for men, with prices ranging from £55 for a printed T-shirt to £150 as the starter price for a jumper, with blazers at £245. For women, the range tops out at £725, for which you will be the proud owner of a brown leather bomber jacket with a fox fur trim.
There may well be a market for all of this, as the number of 7 For All Mankind indie stockists attests, but seen en masse, these prices look optimistic.
In days gone by, jeans were about streetwear and any retailer selling them went to considerable lengths to ensure there was a down and dirty feel to the environments where they were sold. This meant piling jeans high, hanging them from hooks or perhaps furling them up in kit roll-style bundles, the method currently favoured by All Saints.
No such thinking informs the displays at 7 For All Mankind, which has rather more in common with a minimalist designer store of old than a jeans store. Yes, the jeans are piled on perimeter shelves, but the piles are only three-high, giving a total of just 72 pairs of folded jeans for men, for example, with a few front-facing hung pairs beneath.
It’s roughly the same for women and if you want to see more, individual pairs are displayed in the mid-shop on the various tables used for the purpose. After this, it’s a matter of side-hanging along the perimeter with props such as jars of green apples (a device favoured by German exhibition organisers in Düsseldorf, by the way) and a somewhat lonely mannequin inside the store, joining the three that stare out of the window. There’s nothing wrong with any of this. It’s just a little unremarkable when the price tags on the merchandise are considered.
Enthusiastic, as you would hope. The store manager has a comprehensive knowledge of both stock and brand and it’s hard to fault the in-store presentation standards. In part, this might be connected to the fact that customers were relatively thin on the ground, in spite of it being mid-afternoon and four weeks before Christmas.
Anybody walking through the door was greeted with a smile and a willingness and ability to answer almost any 7 For All Mankind-related question.
There’s no doubt the Italian architect who put together this new format 7 For All Mankind (there is one other like it, in Hamburg) knows what slick is about and there will be few questions about the high-end materials deployed. Back-lit wooden perimeter panels, large terrazzo tiles and graphics depicting Rodeo Drive-looking floozies with attitude characterise what this store is about. In the mid-shop, tables formed from raw concrete and a slatted wooden table that takes the form of a wave go a long way towards complementing the expensive stock.
This all sounds pretty impressive, but there is a slight reservation. This looks and feels a little bland - surely not what you would expect of a jeans brand that hails from southern California.
Would I buy?
No, I’m afraid I wouldn’t. There is almost a sense of the emperor’s new clothes about this brand - it charges a lot because it thinks it can get away with it. On balance, and this may sound harsh, a walk across the road to the Levi’s flagship would seem more likely to result in a sale being made. And, oddly, in spite of this store having a very large plate glass picture window, it would actually be quite easy to walk past it, even allowing for the somewhat garish logo that seeks to grab your attention by being washed in blue neon light.
High prices are fine providing there appears to be a reason. This store on Regent Street doesn’t go far enough towards providing that reason and shoppers may find their attention and spending power drawn elsewhere.
Address 171 Regent Street, London
Number of 7 For All Mankind stores in the UK Two (although the Westbourne Grove branch is operated by retailer Joseph)
Year brand founded 2000
Entry price for jeans £165
Top price for jeans £305