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Gucci, Covent Garden, London

The luxury brand brings a sense of exclusivity to the pop-up concept, with a temporary space that will exist only for as long it takes to sell the trainers inside

Think pop-up and it’s a fair bet that one of the images that may cross your mind will be something quick and dirty, the kind of store that has been put together for a relatively low price and which is understood in these terms by shoppers.

And there is a sense, when talking of better-end brands, that in so doing there is an appeal of the reach-me-down chic variety, allowing luxury goods to shine in cheap, yet creative, environments. Particularly for casual brands, this is intended to impart an edgy, street glamour to product that will appeal to those in search of urban grittiness but for whom style and credibility still matter.

If all of this is indeed the case, then the Gucci Icon-Temporary store, which sells limited edition training shoes, is likely to come as a bit of a surprise. This small outlet on Earlham Street in Covent Garden is about consideration from start to finish - there is almost nothing that could be termed rough and ready.

It is also the third of its kind. Gucci opened, and closed, the first two Gucci Icon-Temporary stores in New York and Miami, which traded in October and December last year respectively. Now the concept has arrived in the UK and there is much to commend its Italian slickness, even though it will only exist for three weeks.

Gucci’s choice of Earlham Street is also on the money. The thoroughfare has played host to a number of pop-ups over the past 12 months including the high-profile Barracuta store (Drapers, November 21, 2009) and continues to be a destination for brands looking for a temporary home in London.

Key looks and merchandise mix

There really is only one look for this store - blingtastic. About 600 pairs of trainers are on offer and if they sell out before the store’s three-week lifespan has been reached, there will be no more. And this is not for the faint of wallet. Prices for a pair of sneakers start at close to £400 and head up to just over £600 for a top of the range pair, which feature dyed-blue crocodile-skin tops.

In a glass box visible through the window are a pair of sneakers whose body has been fashioned from what looks suspiciously like Harris Tweed. These have been designed by music producer Mark Ronson in collaboration with Gucci creative director Frida Giannini, are for this store only and are, perhaps unsurprisingly, known as the Gucci Ronson style. Previously, Ronson has also worked with Giannini to create location- specific styles.

The point about the store is that Gucci supposes that by producing limited edition highly styled trainers, it will find a market for something that is normally considered to be the kind of thing you can afford several pairs of, unless you’re a rap star who can afford everything. If you do want to know more about the Gucci offer, there’s a smart-looking Apple computer screen on which you can browse its ranges.

There are just 17 styles, but this is about exclusivity, and shoppers who can afford what’s on display will have little wish to see others wearing the same, or similar. That said, the ranges are narrow in their appeal.

Score 7/10

Visual merchandising

The visual merchandising and the store design are even more closely intermingled than is normally the case. At its most basic, the sneaker display is about making icons of each style. This is done by simply giving each a silver plinth and then resting each plinth on a high-gloss white table. Little else is done that will distract, but it is also worth checking out the shoe boxes, each of which has its own niche in a white pigeonhole-style wall behind the cash desk.

The boxes have been personalised for the store and are kept closed by a piece of Gucci-striped elasticated ribbon. Inside the box, the trainers are wrapped in white tissue paper onto which a map of central London has been printed.

Overall, the effect is remarkably restrained, allowing the stock to become the star of the show.

Score 7/10

Service

There can’t be many pop-up stores that have a sharp black-suited security guard, complete with intercom and earpiece, waiting to greet you as you enter the store. This may be a pop-up store, but you are acutely aware that you are in a designer environment.

Inside, the staff are well-briefed and scrupulously polite, ready to tell you about the ranges and with a deep knowledge of the offer, although this isn’t terribly difficult when the width is considered. Nevertheless, it would be hard not to be charmed by the politely casual stance adopted by the staff.

Score 8/10

Store appeal

The thing about Gucci is the stripe: it’s as iconic as the Nike swoosh or Chanel’s linked Cs. And it’s for this reason that Giannini, who has created this interior, has made it the dominant feature of the store, running it around the perimeter wall. The white table is straightforward, as are the whitewashed walls and mid-shop pillars and angular white sofas.

That’s about it on the interior store design, with the exception of the Apple screen and iPad, on which shoppers can examine other parts of the Gucci range. The trick of this interior is that it is simple, although the materials used are not run-of-the-mill, but it feels more white box minimalist than pop-up.

Externally, the stripe motif is used once more, with a vertically striped banner used as the store logo. The single window accommodates a series of skinny red neon tubes fashioned into the shape of two letter Gs.

Once again, this is about being uncomplicated, but about promoting a designed feel rather than any kind of agitprop presence.

Score 8/10

Would I buy?

No. And the likelihood is that many will feel the same, as the customer for this merchandise at this price level is likely to be both highly limited and choosy. This, of course, needn’t matter unduly when the store is only here for three weeks, but when it is borne in mind that the 600 or so pairs of trainers with an average price of about £500 equates to an investment of £300,000 in an 820 sq ft space, the maths begin to look tricky. In fairness, the store is probably as much about brand building as it is about selling stuff.

Score 6/10

Verdict 36/50

Gucci has created a temporary store in which those with a penchant for highly-styled branded fashion trainers can indulge their passion. It is slick and almost totally unlike a pop-up.

Essentials

Address 37 Earlham Street, London WC2

Opened April 22, 2010

Size of the shopfloor 820 sq ft

Store design Gucci creative director Frida Giannini

Product Limited edition trainers

Store life Three weeks

Major design features Central white table and Gucci stripe around the perimeter of the store

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