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One True Saxon, London

The men’s young fashion brand has created a pop-up store which creates an impression that is greater than the sum of its parts

There is only One True Saxon store and it’s in Nottingham. Other stores where you come across this modish menswear brand are just wholesale stockists and therefore likely to run a truncated version of what you’ll see in its flagship. Everywhere, that is, apart from a small shop on Lamb’s Conduit Street, in London’s Bloomsbury.

Stand in front of the Lamb’s Conduit Street shop and you could be deceived into thinking you’re looking at a permanent store. As previously stated however, there is only One True Saxon and what you are looking at is a pop-up store that will be in place until September.

The game is given away when you happen to glance above the window and notice that the word Cube is picked out in white against the grey window surround. This is in fact a retail unit that is used specifically for pop-up stores and, until the recent arrival of One True Saxon, the space was occupied by menswear brand Universal Works. And the Cube bit is Cube PR, for which the store is something of a front, although the notion of a permanent space that is used only by temporary tenants is an unusual one. Seven weeks from now, rugby brand Canterbury of New Zealand will be the next to move in.

A few words too on One True Saxon. A quick look at the brand’s website will inform you that the collections are about “style” rather than “fashion”, as the former is “timeless” while the latter is “transient”. That said, there is a distinct whiff of fashion about what’s on show in Lamb’s Conduit Street, and the website’s words sound more like a piece of attitude striking than anything else.

Key looks and merchandise mix

One True Saxon does stand out among its neighbours - despite there being a couple of other chichi menswear retailers on the street - for no better reason than that it’s affordable and not extreme in terms of styling. Again, referring the website, the reason given for One True Saxon’s existence is that it was set up by a pair of “ordinary blokes” who were “obsessed with decent clothing”.

Whether plain and striped polo shirts, jeans, cotton sateen chinos, lightweight jackets and casual shoes, frequently in suede, equate to “decent” is a moot point, but this is a tight collection where colours are generally muted.

Jeans start at £75 and have a top price of £105, while polo shirts are about £45 for a cotton version or £75 for a knitted style. At the top end, shoppers should be prepared to shell out £225 for a jacket with plenty of bolt-on goodies.

There are also accessories, with One True Saxon-branded sunglasses at £85, while footwear begins at close to £60 and reaches £85. A few other brands are also stocked, ranging from Red Wing shoes and Brady bags, to brightly coloured DJ-style headphones, but this is a store that is overwhelmingly about One True Saxon-branded merchandise. If there were a criticism, it would be that the ranges are occasionally in danger of tipping over into dullness.

Score 6/10

Visual merchandising

This is a small space, so the visual merchandising has to be done in such a way that no particular item will dominate, as it’s likely to overwhelm. That said, the few elements used all work to good effect. Behind the cash desk, for instance, are a series of small, wooden slat-sided crates that have been bolted to the wall to form two long lines. These are used to display footwear and force the onlooker to look at the stock instead of the fixtures used to show it off. This certainly has its appeal.

The window is an incredibly spartan affair, with a boxed-in effect created by using the cream-painted end of the cash desk to provide the backdrop to a selection of Red Wing shoes resting on their own shoe boxes. There is also a wooden tailor’s torso displaying a jacket and shirt.

None of this is hugely attention grabbing but, oddly, taken as a piece this is an attention-grabbing store interior.

Score 7/10

Service

Store manager Daniel Oldham, who works for Cube rather than One True Saxon, couldn’t have done more to make his shoppers feel relaxed. Service in a space of this size is really pretty unavoidable given that you can’t help bumping into the member of staff who is on duty.

Given this, the point is that whoever is looking after shoppers has to know their stock, as whether the customer cares for it or not, they will meet the person whose job it is to sell. In the One True Saxon pop-up, Oldham is an accomplished exponent of the soft sell.

Score 7/10

Store appeal

The point about pop-up stores is that more often than not they look and feel temporary. One True Saxon does not and in part this is to do with the choice of fixtures that it has imported to do the job and the shell that it was provided with by Cube. At the back of the store, a faded sky blue-painted dresser strikes the right note of authenticity, as does the simple mid-shop jeans table.

A lot of the space is occupied by the cash and wrap counter, clad in vertical wooden planks and painted a cream colour. Overhead, there are linked industrial-looking pendant lights that are part of what was already there when the brand arrived, as was the wooden floor.

A simple scheme, but one that is perfect for showing off what’s on offer and every bit as good as any of the other fashion shops that crowd this short street.

Score 7/10

Would I buy?

Maybe. Although it has to be said that the collection does veer a little too much towards the pared down. The simplicity of the store is seductive however, and there are considerably more positives than the few negatives that have been outlined. Couple all of this with the sensible pricing and it’s possible that this store would win out over its local rivals.

Score 8/10

Verdict 35/50

One True Saxon has popped up in London once more (it has used the Cube space as a temporary shop before) with a shop that offers a rough-and-ready home for “decent” clothing. It also manages to tread that fine line between the edginess of the pop-up shop and the refinement that you would usually expect of a more permanent outlet.

Essentials

Store size 300 sq ft

Key feature The open-fronted dresser at the back of the shop

Top-priced article Jacket at £225

Entry price T-shirts at £30

Store manager Daniel Oldham

Pop-up strategy This is the second time that One True Saxon has occupied the Cube space on Lamb’s Conduit Street

Number of permanent One True Saxon stores One, in Nottingham

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