The Michael Kors Regent Street branch has edged a few doors down to bring preppy Stateside clothing to an upgraded space. John Ryan visits.
There was a time when Regent Street was a paean to all things British, from Dickins & Jones to Liberty, with The Scotch House selling tartan to anybody who might need it. Now, to understand the section that runs south of Oxford Circus, one need look no further than New York’s Fifth Avenue.
With names such as J Crew, Coach, Brooks Brothers, Bose and Gant (yes, it is a Swedish company, but it looks and feels like preppy New England), this thoroughfare feels increasingly more like a satellite of the Big Apple’s most famous shopping street than any part of London. The latest retailer to provide an East Coast shot in the arm to a street that could be renamed Little America is Michael Kors.
There has been a Michael Kors on Regent Street since 2011, but this new store sees both a relocation and a substantial enlargement of the branch that operated a few doors closer to Oxford Circus.
This one has taken a while to reach the finishing post. The hoardings have been up for what seems like an age, and they are still in place next door as Polo Ralph Lauren gets ready to sell English-style preppy to the Brits.
As with all the stores on Regent Street, the external window surround is low-key, owing to Crown Estate strictures and the area’s listed status. The logo above the door is unobtrusive and a shopper could plausibly fail to notice it.
Then there are the windows themselves. These are akin to an American department store, featuring a lot of product and mannequins with a very neutral backdrop.
“The windows are akin to an American department store, featuring a lot of product and mannequins with a very neutral backdrop”
There is one exception, however: a modestly sized display featuring a pair of articulated artist’s model hands holding up a white Michael Kors clutch bag. This is simple and eye-catching, owing to the prominence afforded to a single item, and provides a visual clue about the retailer’s core item – the handbag.
The other displays focus on the clothing collections, which are predominantly for women, but as this is the first store in Europe to stock it, there is also a menswear display.
In spite of this being a brand that makes the occasional foray into what might be described as ‘bling’, the displays are glamorous and functional – a trait the brand shares with other American retailers in the area.
Heading into the store, the initial impression is one of mirrors, white surfaces, shiny store equipment and conspicuously backlit perimeter modules that give each displayed item a halo. The ground floor is divided into a series of semi-discrete rooms, although there is no sense of the space being carved up and made to feel smaller.
The ground and first floors are about the women’s collections and, playing to its strengths, the rooms to the left and right of the entrance are dedicated to Michael Kors bags.
This is ‘affordable luxury’ and the bags on this floor do not sport the price tags expected by those shopping at, say, Chanel on nearby Bond Street, but they are pricey enough to fall into the ‘investment purchase’ category.
The main area of this floor, which has views directly from the front door to a shoe department at the back of the shop, is an assembly of low tables with items merchandised as if they were display pieces in a modern art museum. The feel is sparse but shiny and part of the opaque wall that backs the staircase is home to a screen showing fashion video content, which is featured throughout the shop.
“The main area of this floor is an assembly of low tables with items merchandised as if they were display pieces in a modern art museum”
The shoe department takes the form of an L shape, with the section displaying very expensive footwear invisible from the front of the shop. Discretion is all, even at the populist end of the luxury market. Again, densities are low – this is not about mass merchandising.
Working the floors
Upstairs is almost entirely concerned with womenswear and the ambience is that of an upmarket, but somewhat impersonal, apartment. Much like the ground floor and the majority of stores on Regent Street, this level benefits from large windows. The floor is split into two, with the main collection in the first room and a smaller room through a square arch, where prices take a substantial hike and some dresses fall just shy of the £7,000 mark.
“Overall, this is a mildly impersonal interior, albeit slickly designed and delivered, and it fits in well with its American retail neighbours”
On the day of visiting, the smaller room was devoid of shoppers and all of the action was in the main space.
And so to the basement, home of the men’s collection. This is a large floor with a bar tucked underneath the stairwell. Working on the principle, perhaps, that men need familiar signals when shopping, there is a grey baize pool table immediately in front of the bar. Framed monochrome prints of masculine objects of desire, such as cars and vintage planes, complete the ‘clubby’ feel of this part of the floor.
The sales area is distinctly masculine when compared with the floors above this one, with grey and silver the predominant colours and open-fronted wardrobes the defining feature of the perimeter. It is a well proportioned, laid-out and merchandised floor, but getting male shoppers into the store and down to this level might be an issue.
Overall, this is a mildly impersonal interior, albeit slickly designed and delivered, and it fits in well with its American retail neighbours.
Michael Kors, Regent Street
Opened: May 12
Size: 16,000 sq ft
Ambience: Serviced-apartment living
Highlight: The ground-floor bag wall
For more images of the store, click here to view our store gallery.