So picture this. You’re a big international Italian denim brand that has a store in Covent Garden and another on Carnaby Street. That’s central London pretty much sewn up, isn’t it?
Address 229-247 Regent Street, London W1B
Ambience Techno greenhouse
Function Events space and showroom
Well, on the basis of what Diesel did just before Christmas, apparently not. The purveyor of modish, better-end jeans has just opened a flagship store on Regent Street.
Well, that makes sense after all. Regent Street seems to be the destination of choice for many international brands and isn’t Diesel just that? Up to a point, but this flagship is a limited life pop-up, on the site of the former Quiksilver store that always looked good but never seemed to have many customers.
Now the temporary but good-looking Diesel Village store that has taken its place seems to be attracting its fair share of the hordes that throng this long, elegant thoroughfare. And when it’s gone, in the spring, a permanent Longchamp store will take its place.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
Denim tends to be well merchandised - it has to be, as the core product could rarely be described as colourful and diversity of shape and form is limited. Perhaps for this reason there is something to look at in almost every part of this shop, and the props used go a long way towards making this a store worth looking at. The offer is in two parts, with men’s on the ground floor and women’s upstairs. There is a dark and moody feel on the ground, while the first floor is lighter, thanks to plenty of natural daylight. The merchandising is similar on both levels, however, with ply-boards around the perimeter providing the setting for the jean shapes and tabled denim. Overall, the feeling is ‘industrial street’ without being hackneyed.
02 - CONCEPT
This is all about neon-lit greenhouses. The sheds that form everything from fitting rooms to display space for denim and, in one instance, a recumbent mannequin are what really catch the eye. And each is different, with some made from solid materials, while others are glasshouses with coloured panels. Even the staircase creates the idea of a white neon shed with its pitched roof. Foot Patrol nothwithstanding, there is nothing like this anywhere else in the West End.
03 - SERVICE
Shoppers seeking not to be greeted would be hard pushed to realise this ambition on a quick spin around the store. There are staff at every turn and all seem friendly and anxious to inform about the store. This really is a positive. Jeans need to be sold and at the prices asked by Diesel, it’s a matter of gentle persuasion, seduction even. And like all good brands, the staff know their stuff in terms of leg shapes and the various range components. There is much to applaud here - more so than the area’s other Diesel branches.
04 - PRODUCT
In wardrobe-building terms, a pair of Diesel jeans, or any of the associated jackets and accessories is a considered purchase, given that a price tag of around £100 or more is fairly typical. Diesel Village is no different, but as well as blue and black denim in a variety of shapes and washes, this store is also about anything from skinny-fit jackets with large revers, to strappy long dresses in sombre colours. It is entirely possible to emerge from this store as a walking advert for the brand and look pretty good in doing so … at a hefty price.
05 - COMPETITION
Denim retailing is, by definition, a competitive business, but on Regent Street there really is only one other branded denim contender: Levi’s. The Levi’s flagship is a thing of rare beauty and continues to reinvent itself on a regular basis thanks to the large space at the front of the store where installations are mounted. This makes things tough for Diesel Village, but there is sufficient clear blue water between the two stores to make each work in spite of the other. And the fact that this is a temporary store yet can still act as competition to the Levi’s behemoth is testimony to the storefit’s strength.
06 - VERDICT, THE PROSPECTS ARE GOOD
The Diesel Village pop-up has appeared almost from nowhere. At one moment this was a moribund Quiksilver branch and the next it had hatched from a wood, steel and neon chrysalis, emerging as something completely different …and better. Even if you don’t care for Diesel’s take on denim, it would be hard to ignore this one and it adds an additional sparkle to this end of Regent Street. Making a splash in the denim world is rarely easy and normally requires heavy investment. There can be little doubt that, in this case, Diesel’s outlay seems worth it.