Rainwear brand Mackintosh’s first standalone store on Mount Street in Mayfair turns a functional clothing item into something to be coveted
Thermos, Hoover, Mackintosh. All are names of brands frequently deployed as shorthand for, respectively, a vacuum flask, a vacuum cleaner and a specific item of rainwear. As such, you might think these brand names have a huge advantage insofar as they are the nominal benchmark by which all other similar products are judged.
Except it’s not really like that because you are as likely to buy a Burberry raincoat as a Mackintosh (or mac, as it is normally referred to), or a Miele instead of a Hoover. Over the course of time, these brand names have become little more than generic reference points, and the fact that a raincoat happens to be a Mackintosh means not a great deal.
Perhaps with this in mind, although probably not, rainwear label Mackintosh has opened a two-floor store on upscale Mount Street in London’s Mayfair. This is its first standalone store, although there was a joint collaboration between luggage brand Globe-Trotter and Mackintosh in London’s Burlington Arcade, but the Mackintosh part of that deal ceased to be more than a year ago.
Now those in search of this archetypically British label, frequently worn by Japanese brand hunters, need to hotfoot it to Mount Street.
Key looks and merchandise mix
First things first. Pretty much every year, press releases arrive on the fashion desks of magazines such as Drapers announcing the return of the trench coat, the mac or some other piece of styled rainwear. And with almost equal predictability, this missive turns out to be somewhat ahead of the curve as rainwear is sold, but not in much greater quantities than any other year. Perhaps the Mackintosh store may tip the balance this year as the stock on display is nothing if not covetable.
For the most part, it appears short raincoats are the order of the day and the Mount Street store offers them in a surprisingly wide variety of finishes, fabrics and colours for men (with Barbour-esque jackets also featuring), while for women it’s open season as far as colour and pattern are concerned.
The true Mackintosh coat is produced by a mix of taped seams and the use of rubber and its makers, in Cumbernauld, Scotland, use the same production process as was patented by Charles Macintosh in 1823. Mr Macintosh would probably be surprised by the turn that events have taken as far as styling is concerned, with everything from zebra-print raincoats to a shocking pink belted db number with domed gold buttons.
It is equally feasible he’d be taken aback by the prices discreetly attached to the back neck label, which start at about £300 and head up to more than £700.
There is remarkably little in the way of what might be termed pure visual merchandising - there are no props in the window and no mannequins.
The window display is straight from the school of less is more, with a vase of white flowers, a couple of raincoats and not much else. But it is enough and mirrors the treatment of the garments, which are mostly displayed in glass cases.
Pride of place is reserved for the women’s coat room in the basement. Here the pink db raincoat is positioned in a circular glass case with a black top and bottom - not unlike the Star Trek transporter, except thin strands of crystals descend from its ceiling. The case is internally lit, as are many others in the shop, but the fact the visual merchandising team at Mackintosh has avoided putting a mannequin in the space does much to enhance what is being shown.
Minimalism is not in vogue in store design currently, but there is a sense Mackintosh has not been told about this. It is the better for it.
When it comes to working out whether service is up to scratch on Mount Street, visiting on a weekday morning is probably ill-advised. Almost nobody is in the area, but when Drapers arrives, the store manager is advising a female customer about which coat she might buy.
Whatever she says, it works. The shopper exits with two new raincoats having spent about £1,000. The staff are pleasant and friendly - a trait sometimes difficult to discern in this part of London, where shoppers tend to be assessed on their probable bank balance.
This store has been designed by Japanese design consultancy Wonderwall Inc, perhaps not entirely surprising given there is a fair amount of Oriental capital riding on the brand making money. And the key message is simplicity, but not austerity. Whether it’s the warm herringbone wooden floor or the dark wood on the ceilings, this is about domestic scale - an idea reinforced by the two rooms that have been created in the basement, rather than a single uninterrupted space.
If you were to examine the many display cabinets, several of which have bases that are white light boxes, there is nothing particularly novel or innovative about them, but they are made to an exacting specification and there is a sense of polish about the whole interior.
Not too much is made of the cash and wrap area on the ground floor - it’s tucked away at the back of the store with a discreet logo on the wall. Worth noting too are the black stencilled messages on some display cabinets, with messages such as ‘Why am I smiling and why do I sing?’, adding a feeling of easy familiarity.
Would I buy?
It would require a deep breath as, unless you happen to be the lady shopping on the day of Drapers’ visit, this is serious investment purchasing. That said, there is sufficient variety to offer real choice within a fairly narrow category, and whatever you buy you’d hope will provide good service for at least a decade.
The store is for a limited market, principally owing to the price of entry to this select club. If you have a few hundred to spare on a coat, it is certainly among the contenders for loosening the purse-strings.
Address 104 Mount Street, London W1
Number of floors Two
Store design Wonderwall Inc
Standout in-store feature The ‘transporter’ display module
Mackintosh head office Cumbernauld, Scotland
Limiting factor Price