Diesel’s upmarket, minimalist sub-brand has opened its first store, which is worlds apart from its parent’s jeans-stuffed shops.
Think Diesel, and chances are pretty high that your first thought will be denim and your second will be the artfully distressed stores that form a broad part of the brand’s identity.
No two stores are the same, but shoppers are likely to know where they are thanks to in-store displays that usually involve reach-me-down chic and shelves groaning with jeans.
But apply this line of thinking to the Diesel Black Gold store on London’s Conduit Street - just off Bond Street - designed by French consultancy Architecture & Associés, and you might draw a blank. The 2,280 sq ft shop contains a range that comes from the Italian house of Diesel, but looks nothing like the usual offering. Instead, visitors walk through the inconspicuous entrance - currently partially hidden by scaffolding - into an upscale, pared-down, cream-coloured box.
The minimalist look remains predominantly the preserve of the designer crowd, and the Diesel Black Gold pricing structure puts it firmly in this category. As far as the shopfit is concerned, things have been kept simple but expensive. The narrow, two-floor unit occupies the ground floor and basement, which means bulk stock is displayed side-hung along the walls. Accessories are shown off in rectangular, LED-lit white shelving units.
The shop is, for the most part, an exercise in keeping things streamlined, with just one small table displaying merchandise on the ground floor and a few more used in the basement. On both levels the floor is composed of carefully crafted diamond-pattern marquetry alternating light and dark-coloured wood. It is an expensive-looking arrangement, far removed from Diesel’s style.
Perimeter rails are suspended from the ceiling. Concrete planks reach from the floor up to the ceiling in the space immediately behind them, creating a neutral backdrop. The space is well lit with white spotlights overhead and behind the concrete pillars, creating areas of light and shade.
There is also the matter of the merchandising and stock. There are two approaches to side-hanging clothing, at opposite ends of the spectrum. For value retailers, side-hanging is about getting more stock onto the sales floor and focuses on commodity display. In more costly boutiques, density is low and signals to shoppers that prices will be higher.
The Conduit Street store falls into the second camp. With a T-shirt bearing the legend ‘Blame me’ priced at £80 - a bestseller, according to the store manager - and a black shirt with pintucks on the front selling for £195, the pricing is highly aspirational.
The layout of the collection makes it at times difficult to work out where to look for product. The ground floor has menswear, Diesel’s strongest range, at the front, with womenswear towards the back. Downstairs and it’s menswear once more, but as you move away from the stairs it becomes womenswear again. While confusing, display standards are resolutely high throughout.
When it comes to colour, shades are muted.
Dusty pastels are as bright as it gets in the women’s collection. Greys, swamp greens, browns and whites characterise the men’s offer, with the usual smattering of black.
The store has been open for just over two months and is a world first for Diesel. It is intended to be a template for stores in other locations, but according to the store manager a further roll-out is dependent on the West End branch’s performance.
The question is, will it work? Is the distance put between a normal Diesel store and Diesel Black Gold so great that the brand’s essence and authority have been lost? It is totally different from the parent brand and is a very attractive store, but there are quite a few other brands doing something similar.
It is also the fashion branded equivalent of a stealth bomber, as Diesel Black Gold is almost totally below the radar.
On paper, it should work - but perhaps leveraging Diesel’s brand equity and a little more marketing might push it towards success.