Think Gant and the image that comes to mind may range from the middle-aged and relatively affluent gent gracing the golf course to a senior member of the accounts payable department on a smart-casual social evening with colleagues.
Address 47 Beak Street, London W1
Number of floors One
Ambience Menswear indie
Opened March 14, 2013
Brands Gant Rugger
More often than not, the name Gant will be apparent on the garment being worn and it will offer the reassurance of belonging to a sartorial club.
There is, however, a younger version of the Sweden-headquartered brand, dubbed Gant Rugger, which looks and feels considerably different from its more mature parent. A version of this can be seen in the basement of Gant’s Regent Street flagship, but if you want to see Gant Rugger in its entirety, a trip to Beak Street in Soho is in order, as here stands the label’s first UK standalone store.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Space, and lots of it, is the starting point for this store, with the overwhelming bulk of the stock displayed along the right and left-hand perimeter walls, and with most of it being side-hung. Density is fairly low, helping to create the impression that this is a fringe designer collection and that what’s on show is the outcome of careful editing.
Elements of the ranges have been pulled out to create tabled mid-shop displays, but again, the emphasis is on keeping things pared back. The only exception are the male tailor’s dummies which are dressed to remind the onlooker of the sort of young father found shouting at his six-year old for not catching the ball
at a mini-rugby match on a Sunday morning. All is carefully considered.
02 - CONCEPT
The concept that underpins Gant Rugger on Beak Street is really straightforward - make this a store that looks and feels like a menswear indie, even when it isn’t. Something similar has been done by Topshop at its General Store in Shoreditch and the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden. This was a butcher’s store in a former life and the beaten-up cream tiling on the walls, the reclaimed wooden floor and the retro 1930s furniture all add to the independent vibe.
03 - SERVICE
A single member of staff was on duty on the morning of visiting and she would have fitted into any of the menswear indies in the area, with a relaxed and friendly attitude. At this end of the market there is a fine line between selling and pestering, and this seemed to be being observed. And as in actual independent retailers, everything looked as if it had been carefully considered, rather than mass-merchandised, which is only possible when the staff understand the brand.
04 - PRODUCT
A blazer for £350 is hardly a snip, and it does provide an insight into the sort of price range the shopper can expect when stepping across the threshold of this store. That said, the ranges have genuine hanger and table appeal, with the pink chinos in particular, at £95, really standing out. Your correspondent was informed that a men’s Madras check shirt at a shade over £70 was affordable and it probably is, but it still represents a thought-about purchase, rather than something grabbed off the rail.
05 - COMPETITION
From Fred Perry to Wolsey, there is a huge amount of competition for Gant Rugger, and all of it is less than two minutes’ walk from this store’s front door. Menswear is a tough market in which to operate at the best of times, and in Soho this fact is amplified several times over. On the basis of what’s in store at the moment, however, Gant Rugger looks up to the challenge. Its prices may not be the cheapest - although there are many in the area that leave it standing in this respect - but it does have the merit of a distinct handwriting that should stand it in good stead.
06 - VERDICT: THE PROSPECTS ARE GOOD
It matters little that Gant Rugger is part of a large retail organisation with stores across the globe, because the passerby is likely to be seduced by this store with its hand-me-down fixtures and almost temporary pop-up ambience. Take a look at the website and the models do indeed look like very chiselled versions of the local first XV, walking together in a hulky huddle along the shoreline. This look may be difficult to achieve in Soho, but this is a very good example of the up-and-coming faux indie store. Expect other brands to do something similar this year.