Opening a top-end fashion store at the moment is a bold move but the Californian brand has taken the plunge and is set to be a permanent fixture in upscale Mayfair.
Juicy Couture, the brand beloved by WAGs in this country and best known for its velour trackie bottoms with the word “Juicy” plastered across their, ahem, seat, was celebrating last week with a party to mark its recent arrival on London’s Bruton Street. Co-founder and creative director Gela Nash-Taylor pitched up for the event, presumably fresh from the Californian HQ.
The two-floor store was filled with fashionistas, models and associated liggers. And there was much for the brand to be pleased about. With a selling area of 4,000 sq ft located in a townhouse built during the reign of Queen Anne, the store’s upper floor is home to the brand’s European showrooms and offices.
Bruton Street, in the heart of Mayfair, is home to many of fashion’s great and good, and Juicy Couture rubs shoulders with Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson and Diane von Furstenberg, all of whom have outposts here. And on a midweek day, the street is busy, mostly with people heading into the offices of the posh estate agents and banks that fill many of the area’s larger buildings. Whether they have the time or the inclination to frequent the stores along this thoroughfare is another matter. Over the course of several visits, Juicy Couture had less than a handful of shoppers each time. However, given the price levels at which this brand operates, volume sales are not the be all and end all.
As a statement of intent, Juicy Couture’s first UK store is pretty uncompromising and certainly manages to be more than a repository of pinkish velour clothing – which is where some might consider it to be.
Key looks and merchandise mix
The store’s geography permits an easy merchandise division and the ground floor has been used for occasion-based stock, while upstairs things are more casual, although such terms are relative in the context of Juicy Couture’s range. On the ground floor, pieces on display range from fitted jackets and short skirts to red, short, military-influenced coats at £335. At the back of the floor, there’s a perfume counter where 100ml of Juicy Couture-branded perfume will set you back a little short of £60.
Upstairs, as well as pieces such as a sleeveless stretch jersey mini dress in grey marl with feather detailing around the armholes for £135, the shopper will catch sight of the velour tracksuit bottoms for which the brand is perhaps best known, also priced at £135. Jeans are also offered, in a light wash, at £165, which might perhaps be teamed up with one of the many £65 T-shirts. In a separate room at the back of this floor is a kids’ range – largely a scaled-down version of the adult offer. And if all else fails, customers can treat themselves to a pair of Juicy Couture moon boots.
“Excess all areas” might provide an executive summary of the visual merchandising technique employed in this store, and for pure invention, this one really takes some beating. Juicy Couture picks up on the trend for using dead animals to adorn its interior, taking things a stage further by visually merchandising the road kill. Practically, this means a fox with a Union Jack neckerchief and diamanté brooch and a moosehead that has been given a Jackson Pollock paint treatment and had its horns turned into candelabras.
In terms of colour scheme and props used, the kids’ area on the first floor looks almost as if a Victorian toy box had been raided, with the large drums on the perimeter shelves springing straight from tin-soldier land.
White, semi-featureless mannequins are used extensively across the store and the choice of Andy Warhol-style portraits of Tudor royals, their faces blanked out, adds a surreal touch to proceedings.
If there were anything to find fault with, it would be that the full-on nature of the merchandising almost leaves you wondering where to look next, although this can only really be a positive.
The service was of a high standard. On the ground floor, a seated shopper was being given a fashion and style advice session, as a member of staff went through a pile of co-ordinating merchandise and suggested what might work and, equally, what probably wouldn’t. The same eagerness to please was evident when your correspondent enquired about the price of one of the perfumes at the back of the store.
Whether this willingness would be the same were the shop invaded by a mob of Juicy Couture-hungry punters is a moot point, but it was hard not be impressed, particularly in view of the probable reception that would be afforded to the casual shopper in some other shops nearby.
Whether it’s the pictures with the gilt-framed faux oil paintings featuring hunting scenes that have been combined with monochrome line drawings, or the wooden ceiling that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tuscan palazzo, director of store design Philip Johnson and team have done a remarkable job.
This store is about the big picture – a rococo take on Britishness. But the devil is also in the detail and nothing has been left to chance – from the packing trunk display fixture for handbags, or the mid-shop equipment on the ground floor with Grecian urns that have been cleaved in two to act as supports. Mention should also be made of the wallpaper with 18th-century bucolic scenes, and the first floor’s eccentrically coloured tartan carpet. If you set up to create an environment in which sensory overload was the watchword, this might be the solution you’d arrive at.
Would I buy?
In spite of a brand image that is, in certain quarters, a little contentious, the probable answer would be yes. It would be quite hard, were you of the demographic at whom this store is aimed, to walk in and not be persuaded that there are certain items that have ‘buy me now’ written all over them. The only sticking point might be price, but if you find yourself clothes shopping in Bruton Street, the chances are this isn’t an obstacle.
The most visually merchandised store to hit London this year and a real shot in the arm for those who say that not much has been happening in the new stores world during 2009. The stock may not be to everyone’s taste, but this is an exceptional fashion emporium.
Address 27 Bruton Street, London W1
Location A Queen Anne townhouse built in 1705 and recognised by the London Heritage Society
Size 4,000 sq ft
Store design Philip Johnson, director of store design
Price of signature velour tracksuit bottoms £135
Best visual merchandising element Paint-splashed moose head