The workwear brand has a ready-made fanbase in east London, hence this store is very different to its Covent Garden stablemates.
Carhartt is one of those brands that is slotted into the category of ‘workwear’. Nothing wrong with this, except that doesn’t everyone, the unemployed notwithstanding, don some kind of workwear before heading out of the door every morning? This is of course the case, but a more accurate definition, albeit less catchy, would be manual labourwear, because that is where US company Carhartt, Inc has its origins.
However, from a Carhartt/Work In Progress (Work In Progress is the German distributor that has adapted the Carhartt US offer since 1994 to make it appropriate to this side of the pond) perspective, this is a brand that is worn by those who are easily tracked down in London’s Shoreditch. These are the types who may prefer to wander around in a pair of Dr Martens and perhaps wear faux National Health specs – it’s a Buddy Nerdy skateboarding kinda thing. Which does rather make you wonder why it’s taken the brand so long to set up shop in east London, where there are surely more potential Carhartt shoppers than almost anywhere else in the city.
There have in fact been two Carhartt shops in Covent Garden for many years, so the arrival of a new store is a pleasant surprise – the surprise being that there isn’t one there already. The point about this branch, which opened two weeks ago, is that it is different from what you’ll see in Covent Garden, having a lot more in common with the Carhartt store in New York’s SoHo than anything you are likely to see in this country.
This one is aimed, naturally, at the Carhartt enthusiast, but it will also appeal to those in search of more exclusivity thanks to collaborations between the brand and sundry designers.
Key looks and merchandise mix
At its most rudimentary, the Carhartt range boils down to two key items: a pair of loose-fitting jeans and a T-shirt with a logo on it. The former sells for between £60 and £120, depending on wash and detailing, while the latter starts at £28 and heads up to around the £40 mark. After that, it’s tempting to say it’s a matter of elegant variation – and to a point this would be correct.
Another way of putting this is that if you don’t want a T-shirt with the word Carhartt on it, there are “pants” and rucksacks (in the brand’s proprietary “duck brown” canvas), checked shirts and jackets to choose from, as well as the de rigueur beanies and, curiously, umbrellas.
The brollies are the result of a collaboration between better-end Japanese casualwear brand Neighbourhood and Carhartt. And this means the rather fetching black and white striped umbrella that is on display will set you back a cool £120 – quite a price to pay for the matter of looking stylish while fending off a shower. There are also loose-fitting denim shirts and jackets, the result of co-operation between Carhartt and New York-based designer Adam Kimmel, as well as jackets and tops from the tie-up between the brand and French denim label APC.
Overall, this is a stripped-down offer and if you’re looking for hundreds of options, it might be better to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’re after limited-distribution Carhartt pieces, this is worth a visit.
There’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple, particularly if you’re in the business of selling relatively pricey items to those who will understand the frequently subtle differences that make one style different from another. It also has the benefit of making shoppers take time to examine each style, or to leave the store quickly as it becomes straightforward to assess whether it’s for you or not.
With this in mind, the bulk of the stock at the front of the shop is displayed on hangers and side hung on long rails attached to the plain wall. Beyond this, it’s heavy open-fronted wardrobes for the “pants” and a table that has been fashioned from “Scottish elm” (very rare, apparently) that is home to a black Neighbourhood-branded T-shirt and that umbrella.
All in all, this is a spartan presentation and the better for it. Workwear would probably not benefit from over- elaborate presentation, but the manner in which the displays have been constructed is perfectly on brand.
Drapers visited the Carhartt store a day ahead of the store actually opening and, therefore, a default service score has been awarded on the basis that it’s hard to tell. That said, the staff on hand did know all about the brand history and the finer points of almost every piece of merchandise on display.
There’s a lot to like about this store. It was designed by an Australian architect, an Italian was responsible for the neon sign-cum-sculpture and the brand is a US/UK/German hybrid. Enough of the national name-dropping, however, because what really matters is what is on view in Shoreditch and this is a store that has a rough-hewn industrial quality which is both in keeping with its surroundings and with the ranges that are on show. The whitewashed brick walls were discovered by stripping them back and the floorboards are decking from a former amusement pier in Great Yarmouth. The cash desk is fashioned from repurposed teak and the perimeter wardrobes have been created from unfinished timbers. With graphics that show skateboarders and with the Carhartt logo sculpture towards the shop’s front, you have a very engaging interior.
Does it work?
It does and it will. Carhartt blends seamlessly into the Shoreditch cityscape and if you didn’t know this was a newcomer to the area, you’d probably assume it has been around since the area first became grungily fashionable.
Carhartt opens its fourth UK standalone store at the right time and in the right place and it will find a ready and willing band of brand fans who are prepared to dig deep.
Address 191 Shoreditch High Street, London E1
Store design Goran Stevanovic of Redwood Projects, Australia
Neon artwork Pietro Sanguineti
Target shopper Designer skater boy – aka Buddy Nerdy