Everything feels restrained in the Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas collaboration’s second London store - except the prices.
Address 12 Floral Street, London WC2E
Opened August 1, 2013
Previous tenant Aubin & Wills
Store size 1,615 sq ft
Ambience Sportswear slick
For those not in the know, Y-3 could refer to a South African automatic grenade launcher, a series of Swedish diesel railway carriages or a Boeing airliner project. In Covent Garden’s Floral Street, however, Y-3 is a sports fashion brand from Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto in collaboration with Adidas that has just opened its second store in London.
London’s first standalone Y-3 is on Conduit Street and opened in March 2011 in a unit that is narrow and a little cramped. In Covent Garden, the high-end brand has much more commodious premises and visitors can see everything on a single floor, in contrast to Conduit Street’s two smaller floor plates.
Format and visual merchandising
Y-3 starts with a distinct advantage inasmuch as the store is essentially square, making merchandising and dividing the space fairly straightforward. It also plays to the store’s minimalist intent, which is established from the moment the shopper stands outside the store’s white frontage with the windows and architectural metalwork picked out in black.
Internally, things are white too, but much of the shop looks grey in tone, owing to the lights being focused on the stock and fixtures, rather than having high ambient light levels. Across the floor, the eye is caught by a series of floor-to-ceiling light boxes featuring fashion shots.
Stock levels around the perimeter are kept sparse, making each piece appear jewel-like, which does look almost like an attempt to justify the very high prices demanded.
The cash and service desk is in the middle of the shop and like much of the rest of the storefit, it shows great attention to detail. This means it has a restrained but obviously expensive palette of materials, with mirrored sides and internally lit glass display cases housing accessories doubling up as the counter.
In spite of the sporadic use of bold colour, there is a sense of calm about this interior that you would expect of a high-end Japanese brand.
It also sets the scene for digging into your wallet.
The clue for much of the product is in the brand name. The ‘Y’ clearly stands for Yohji Yamamoto, while the ‘3’ refers to the iconic stripes that signal an Adidas product. The hyphen is supposed to be the link between the two brands.
And here perhaps is a mild problem. Adidas is a global mega-brand and a titan of the middle market. Yohji Yamamoto is also a well-known label, but its products are, if nothing else, resolutely upscale.
The outcome is that if you want a pair of trainers, a core part of the offer in this shop, expect to pay north of £180, which puts the brand way ahead of the Nike bespoke trainer service in the not-too-distant Niketown at Oxford Circus.
And to put a few more prices into the mix, a plain white polo shirt is £75 and a black, round-neck lightweight sweat top with a Y-3 appliqué in shiny black is £95.
On the accessories side of things, a small purse-cum-wallet in black and Y-3’s signature orange is £110, which puts the brand in the same bracket as Comme des Garçons, although Comme feels more aspirational when an equivalent article is compared.
All of this means that while this is undoubtedly a stylish sports-based range, the pricing is very ambitious and high enough to deter many.
The restraint shown in the store design is mirrored in the service. The three members of staff on duty on the evening of visiting were, of course, dressed entirely in black and each sported a severely modish hairstyle. This is pretty much in keeping with what you might expect of a brand like Y-3 and this spare aesthetic can even be vaguely intimidating. That said, the store was immaculate, things were being kept just so, and the staff were polite from the moment they greeted you to the instant you decided to leave.
Selling was being undertaken but it was a subtle process and you might have been unaware that you were being seduced.
Does it work?
This will certainly appeal to fans of the brand and is a good-looking space, but newcomers will find the pricing difficult. There is much to be said for keeping things simple if you want to look expensive, but as soon as the word Adidas becomes part of the mix, expectations about pricing may be somewhat lower than what is being demanded in the Y-3 store.
As a new store representing a global brand with stockists across the UK, this is a fine ambassador and is certainly much better than the original standalone on Conduit Street. There is, however, little certainty that shoppers will beat a path along Floral Street in search of this shop. The nearby Paul Smith stores may prove competitive distractions and halt shoppers’ progress along the street.