The Swiss Army knife creator’s flagship store displays the same sharp attention to detail as its iconic product.
Any boy armed with even the remotest sense of adventure will have grown up longing for or cherishing his Swiss Army pen-knife. The slickly designed multi-function knife provided the blueprint for the technically led clothing collection which Victorinox – the brand behind the Swiss Army knife – launched in autumn 2001.
Now the brand has opened its first European flagship store in London. Spread over three floors, the 4,500sq ft store has enough stark and clean-lined retail drama to match its prestigious New Bond Street address, and provides a fitting backdrop to the brand’s technically informed modernist men’s and women’s fashion.
The ground floor is vast, with products displayed liberally on an industrial-inspired system of stainless steel rails. Knitwear is folded precisely on bench-length slabs of mud-treated wood, mounted on reinforced glass supports. Framed by a series of chunky lacquer-lined white walls, the perimeter of the store is peppered with plasma screens showing backlit oversized lifestyle images.
Created by Swiss architect firm Retail Partners, the flagship is a shrine to contemporary architecture. Its pièce de résistance is the centrally positioned staircase. Clad in rough-textured Swiss stone, each wall panel surrounding the stairwell is hand-cut. The staircase snakes around a monolithic steel-framed butterfly case, which intersects all three storeys. Dominating the display are hundreds of identical classic red penknives, which provide an arresting visual merchandising tool to an otherwise redundant space.
Displayed close to the ground floor, next to a front-of-house area dedicated to the brand’s extensive watch and penknife collection, is another reinforced glass display case, this time dedicated to a single, diamond-encrusted penknife in a platinum case. The price tag? A mere £65,000.
The shopper’s imagination is engaged at various points throughout the store, from point of entry to departure. Even shoppers’ partners, dragged to the capacious fitting rooms for a reassuring second opinion, get to kick back in the comfort of a modernist sofa. Once there, a wooden bench with a touch-sensitive screen provides a detailed brand history, and invites customers to enter their age and gender details to see a line-up of the products stocked in store.
Above the first-floor womenswear department is a warren of offices. These lead to a showroom split into two sections from which Victorinox’s UK team – led by managing director Gerry Dixon and sales director Chris Akrimi – present the collection and manage the retail and wholesale operations.
“Last year, the brand wrote to all its distribution partners and asked what retail opportunities there were,” Dixonexplains. “We knew Londonhad to be the European springboard, and when this entire building became available, we recognised that it was too good a chance to miss.”
4,500sq ft: Size of store
Three: Number of floors dedicated to fashion and hardware
August 11: Date last year on which the store opened
28: Number of Victorinox stores around the world
Victorinox 95 New Bond Street, London W1S