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Shopwatch: Karen Millen

Karen Millen’s sophisticated new London flagship store is targeting trend-savvy, affluent women.

Opening not one, but two flagship stores in the space of a month is no mean feat. Opening them on two of the most famous shopping streets in the world makes for a greater challenge still.

Karen Millen, however, is taking such activity in its stride. The duo who head up the business - chief executive Mike Shearwood and chief creative officer Gemma Metheringham - opened a Brompton Road store in Knightsbridge, London on April 30. In New York, a flagship on Fifth Avenue is slated for an end of May launch.

Talking to Drapers on the eve of the London store opening (and incidentally Karen Millen’s autumn 14 press day - Shearwood and Metheringham are nothing if not multi-taskers), the pair explained that the three-floor, 8,000 sq ft Knightsbridge space will be a chance for Karen Millen to show its home market what it’s made of.

Metheringham describes the revamped in-store aesthetic as “simpler, cleaner, whiter, brighter, with luxury finishes as accents.

We’ve been stripping away some elements.” On the shop floor, this translates to pared-back, dark-stained wood flooring on the basement level, with concrete used on the ground and first floors. Exposed metal and glass fixtures throughout add to the simple feel, which was designed with consultancy Brinkworth.

The ground floor houses the mainline. Large screens show moving images of the collection, while the second floor showcases accessories alongside more mainline product. Single bags or a pair of shoes are perched on wooden blocks, and putty-coloured sofas surrounding coffee tables add to the pared-back finish. There are changing rooms on each level, with 17 in total, and four stockrooms are split across the floors. Prices range from £45 for a T-shirt to £1,400 for a sheepskin coat.

Shearwood says the main evolution of Karen Millen’s in-store identity is that formerly static features have been replaced with flexible, changing fixtures. Despite the tranquil simplicity on the ground and first floors, Shearwood also wanted “a little bit of theatre” for the retailer. The basement houses this more dynamic, innovative element of the store identity, with its own “atelier”.

In keeping with the evolving nature of the shopfit, the theme of the atelier will change on a regular basis. At the launch, leather customisations were offered, building on the success Karen Millen’s Selfridges leather pop-up earlier this year.

Offering “investment quality clothing” is how Metheringham describes the retailer’s business method. Karen Millen is making a similar investment in quality with its Knightsbridge flagship: time will tell whether the decision will draw in Karen Millen’s target customer, “the cool, luxe girl at the side of the room at a party, the one that everyone wants to know where she got a particular piece of clothing from,” Metheringham says.

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