Fashion brand Jigsaw welcomes shoppers to store aimed at giving “opinion formers” more reasons to shop the retailer more frequently.

Jigsaw, Duke Street, London W1

Store status: ‘Emporium’

Size: 6,000 sq ft

Opened: April 25, 2014

Number of floors: Two

Store design: Dalziel + Pow 

Remember Jigsaw? That vaguely trendy outfit from the 1980s? Actually, a colleague reminds me when she tells me about her recent visit to the York store and how “she was really impressed by the stock”. Ah yes, that Jigsaw.

The privately owned fashion brand never went away, but may have become a “little tired” according to recently installed chief executive Peter Ruis.

Things are changing however, and on the evidence of Jigsaw’s newly opened ‘emporium’ on London’s Duke Street the retailer could become a resurgent force.

Open for two weeks now, the two-floor, 6,000 sq ft store looks, from the outside, like a cafe for the well-heeled that has a few clothes inside.

While that may be mildly overstating what has been done, the Duke Street branch is a distinct departure from the norm for a brand that has close to 100 outlets (branches and concessions), but which has disappeared from the consciousness of some consumers.

Cast your mind back though and you’ll probably recall how Jigsaw was a retailer that not only boasted a fashion-forward offer, but also seemed to have the uncanny knack of occupying good-looking spaces and then making them even better. It did so with the help of leading designers and architects and the outcome was a retail brand that stood way above the parapet.

“I hate museum-style shops that feel as if they have been curated for a few journalists”

Peter Ruis, Jigsaw

But before deciding whether that is the case on Duke Street, it is worth considering the definition of the word ‘emporium’, since this is what Ruis and team have labelled the store. According to most dictionaries the word comes from the ancient Greek for ‘merchant’ and is “a large shop selling a large range of goods”.

For many people this would equate to a department store and there is a sense perhaps that the Duke Street Jigsaw is akin to that. There is of course the core Jigsaw range. But to it has been added a quasi-designer range, for those who require a ‘statement’ piece of clothing, a cafe, a jukebox and books.

On this analysis, the store looks less and less like a simple clothing shop.

Making this all work requires a unifying force and in this instance it is probably the building itself. Dating from the mid-Victorian era the structure is fairly typical of this part of Mayfair, with reddish brick coupled with ornate moulded stone cladding at ground level and a lot of windows.

And there are a lot of windows because this is a store with a lot of interconnected rooms. Ruis says the building was initially the most important element: “The brief [to design consultancy Dalziel + Pow] was the building itself. We fell in love with the building and the brief was ‘let’s do something surprising, but accessible’.” He adds: “I hate museum-style shops and shops that feel as if they have been curated for a few journalists.”

Simple then. Create a space that is populist in intention, has fashion appeal and which doesn’t feel too self-conscious. And make sure it is appropriate for the Jigsaw customer.

The first things that the potential or existing Jigsaw customer is likely to notice are the chairs and tables immediately in front of the store windows. The ambience is continental and staring through the right-hand windows the initial view is of a Fernandez & Wells artisanal cafe. The coffee chain has branches in Somerset House and select locations in Soho, so you’d expect the offer to be pricey and high-end. It is both, making the drinking of a hot beverage here more of an event than grabbing, say, a skinny latte at the nearby Starbucks.

There is also a jukebox, the contents of which, in spite of Ruis’s evident dislike of ‘curation’, have been personally selected by the chief executive on visits to sundry second-hand record shops. One of the records even starts playing the same phrase over and over until a boot is applied to the machine.

Bringing things slightly more up-to-date are customer-facing digital elements such as digitally mapped mannequin torsos onto which clothes are projected.

Room for fashion

The Jigsaw fashion offer proper begins on the ground floor with men’s and womenswear.

At the far left-hand side of the space is a room that has been set aside for The Shop at Bluebird. This is where the designer lines are housed and if shoppers are in the mood for paying £1,200 for a leather biker jacket, they need look no further. The walls of this part of the shop have been covered in second-hand, off-white tiles of the sort that used to be popular in gentleman’s conveniences.

They work well as the backdrop for a fashion offer too. This is combined with the bespoke lighting feature in the middle of the area, composed of bulbs of various shapes and sizes, making this look and feel as if it might be at home in the not-too-distant designer haven that is Mount Street in the south of Mayfair.

The rest of the floor is a mix of graphics painted directly onto the walls, white spaces that have a minimalist intent when taken in combination with the black mid-shop furniture, and the cash desk and fitting-room block at the back.

Downstairs via the black metal-balustraded staircase are accessories, casualwear and jeans, all contained within the same reclaimed tile environment that is used on the ground floor. Good use has also been made of areas that would traditionally be difficult to merchandise. The space under the stairs, for example, is employed as a jeans shop. There are also a couple of windows that allow views into what Ruis calls “our central London press office”. 

The question is does it work and will it attract new shoppers while retaining existing ones? Ruis is clear about how he thinks things will develop: “The big thing for me is that it should be a meeting place in the West End. The West End has lost all of its indie retailers. We now have confidence that there’s an attitude to this place.

“The store is location-specific and you can find almost every trend in one place – personalisation, analogue and digital. And what we’ve done can change. It’s flexible and we could alter everything in six months from now if we want to.”

David Dalziel, creative director of Dalziel + Pow, notes: “There are components here that can be taken across the estate.” That prospect is some way off. In the meantime, shoppers in this part of London have a new destination to frequent and somewhere that really does live up to its ‘emporium’ billing.