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Shopwatch: Element

Streetwear brand Element skates into Seven Dials with a store showcasing the artistry of the boardsports tribe.

Approaching the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden, you can’t help but be impressed by what landlord Shaftesbury has done to improve its retail environment. The latest addition to the roster is US streetwear brand Element, which opened its first UK store on December 5 as part of a wider plan to increase its UK and European retail presence.

Situated at 13 Shorts Gardens, previously occupied by outdoor brand Berghaus, and with The Cambridge Satchel Company, G-Star and Fat Face as neighbours, the 2,816 sq ft three-floor flagship stocks the full range of men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing, accessories and footwear.

The store design highlights the brand’s skate and streetwear roots - it was founded in 1992 by Johnny Schillereff, who still runs the business.
Outside, the Element logo and signage stands out in red and white against a black shop front, with large windows that forego mannequins so passers-by can peer inside at the industrial-look shopfit or a simple solitary display.

On the ground floor is the menswear collection, at £15 to £30 for T-shirts, £45 to £70 for trousers and denim, £75 to £200 for jackets, £20 to £60 for backpacks and £40 to £105 for footwear.

Clothing is displayed hanging or folded on tables or shelving and reclaimed materials have been used to create a rustic feel alongside exposed brickwork, with a tree acting as a central component to the design’s layout by extending through all three floors.

The reclaimed materials used include salvaged wood, light fittings taken from a Second World War warship - which, I am reliably informed, are bombproof and so difficult to open it took 25 minutes to change each light bulb - and vintage furniture shipped from California.

Stairs lead from the ground floor to the basement, which is Element’s skate room. Here footwear is sold, alongside rucksacks, skateboards and associated accessories such as brightly coloured and patterned wheels.

Womenswear, which is on the first floor, accounts for 12% of the business. Called Element Eden, prices are broadly in line with menswear.
In contrast to the men’s floor, the women’s area has a softer feel, with less product, neutral white walls, smart green light fittings, rugs and again the use of vintage furniture, including pretty cabinets to showcase hanging or folded product and household appliances, such as cookers, on which clothing is displayed.

There is also a gallery area, where Element showcases a selection of photographic prints from the artists it has collaborated with on various capsule collections of clothing, accessories and skateboards.

Element’s UK wholesale business comprises 100 doors, including streetwear independent Route One, which has six stores in cities including Bristol, Cardiff and Edinburgh. It also operates 17 dual-fascia stores with Two Seasons, the boardsports brand also owned by parent company GSM Europe, itself owned by Billabong International.

Speaking about the Covent Garden store, Element vice president of global marketing Julien Duval says: “We are stoked to have the opportunity to showcase what the Element brand stands for to the British market and to be able to use the space as a global brand window.

“The unit we’ve chosen in Seven Dials will not only allow us to feature the entire product range across all categories, but also give us the possibility to tell the engaging lifestyle and core stories we create around our key products. The store is set up to host regular events and will be used for international and regional artists as a platform to present their craft.”

Shaftesbury head of group retail strategy and letting Samantha Bain-Mollison adds: “Element is a very exciting addition to Seven Dials’ array of international brands and is consistent with our strategy of securing the very best mix of cosmopolitan fashion, lifestyle and design icons.

“Element opening its first store here is further evidence of the area’s desirability among leading young fashion retailers. It continues to be a highly sought-after location, with a great atmosphere and a diverse retail and dining offer that is very popular with UK and overseas visitors.”

Duval says Element will be looking to open around seven stores in Europe during the next three years and is considering locations for a second UK store.

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