Menswear indie Trunk proves to be a treasure chest of delights aimed at a preppy and quirky audience - but with prices that are distinctly aspirational.
Until relatively recently, Mats Klingberg was involved in global marketing for American Express, working with high-end brands. Prior to that he had a spell working for Giorgio Armani. About six weeks ago, however, he embarked on a new career as an independent retailer with a small, two-floor store on London’s Chiltern Street called Trunk. This is a menswear shop with a narrow faux-vintage frontage on a street filled with specialist retailers, the majority of which have nothing to do with clothing.
There is everything to play for then and given that this is about providing clothes for the “it’s cool to be a tad retro” and distinctly normal (as well as expensively dressed) crowd, then the shop is in the right place, with its proximity to modish and affluent Marylebone High Street.
The store’s selling point is in fact that both stock and shop ambience are a direct reflection of Klingberg’s taste - it’s just “what he’d wear”, as a member of staff put it. There is the risk, of course, that projects of this kind end up being about an individual’s taste rather than appealing to any particular demographic or group. However, Trunk is a good-looking store and the stock is about quality rather than high fashion, so its appeal should be wide.
New menswear indies tend to be a little thin on the ground at the moment, so it’s good to see a new enterprise of this kind taking flight. There are fewer around than previously because the drop-out rate from this segment of the retail clothing market tends to be
relatively high. It will be interesting to see if this one lasts the course, although it has had very favourable press coverage so far.
Merchandise and key looks
The phrase low key applies best to Trunk. Taken individually, all of the clothes on sale in this store are of uniformly high quality and aimed equally at old-fashioned dandies and wardrobe-builders, rather than fashionistas. This means colours are generally subdued with greys, blacks, blues and fawns predominating. Highlight colours are provided by the accessories, with brightly coloured, but soberly traditional, club ties in woven silk and wool, and a range of shoulder bags that includes a canary yellow number.
And when it comes to working out which brands are on offer, look no further than the bottom right of the store window, where a brand menu lists about 33 names. They range from Edwin, the Japanese denim brand, whose products are on sale alongside sister jeans brand Kitsuné with prices starting at £85 and rising to £125, to overcoats from Aspesi and shirts from J Crew - Trunk is its first UK stockist. At the moment these provide a £65 entry price point with a chambray style at £98, but next season there will be a broader range from the US retailer’s collection.
But the real point about this store is that unless you are incredibly well-heeled, forking out £275 for a jumper or north of £450 for a pair of shoes is not an everyday occurrence. Therefore, kitting yourself out from top to toe in clothing from Trunk is probably going to involve a chat with the bank manager. Overall, Trunk offers a carefully edited collection with brands that are not widely available elsewhere.
Trunk scores highly when it comes to visual merchandising, mainly owing to its deft use of props. These come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from cartoon gorilla-like wooden figures placed on the mantelpiece of an Edwardian fireplace, to vintage furniture from Century Design on nearby Blandford Street. All are used to great effect. Of particular note are the small wooden crates used to show off shirts, ties and socks - these turn out to be cleaned-up fruit containers used by Beirut market traders.
The narrow nature of each floor means it’s hard not to look at one piece of merchandise without imagining it in association with the garment that is displayed next to it.
There are no mannequins - the general ambience is rather too serious for that - but the windows do make use of a couple of tailor’s body form mannequins, smartly dressed in grey jacket and coat and fully accessorised.
Personal service is what it’s all about in this kind of retailing - not pressing something on a shopper that isn’t appropriate. The two people looking after the shop had an almost anal knowledge of each and every garment and brand that was on display, including provenance, composition and cut.
If your pockets are deep enough, you’ll be well looked after at Trunk.
Trunk belongs to that class of stores where a somewhat severe aesthetic prevails, but with a quirky twist. The staircase does much to illustrate this. It is formed from unfinished oak, like the rest of the store’s floor, but there are black treadmarks painted onto each step, revealing a sense of humour.
In essence, this is a shop that has a stripped-down and very masculine feel which allows the stock to do most of the talking. It’s also a contemporary take on white box, done in a manner that doesn’t seem intimidating.
Worth noting too is the shop’s uncluttered nature. The temptation to cram a lot of stock into the restricted space has been resisted.
Would I buy?
Yes, with a but. The but in this instance is that it would be economically impractical to head into Trunk and buy complete outfits. Even allowing for the fact that this is wealthy Marylebone, there are few people able to shop in this manner in an expensive store.
Trunk is a welcome addition to the Marylebone retail landscape and the offer is perfectly in tune with the sort of men you see filling its streets on a daily basis. If retro and quality are part of your vocabulary, then this store will certainly be on your visit list.
Address 8 Chiltern Street, London W1
Number of brands 33
Opened September 2010
Reason for visiting A quirky offer
In-store equipment Vintage furniture from Century Design and display crates from Beirut markets
Most likely to succeed The J Crew range of striped and plain men’s shirts at £65
Owner and founder Mats Klingberg