Upscale menswear retailer Hackett has opened a quintessentially British flagship residing on London’s popular Regent Street.
Some stores look as though they have always been there. They have an air of effortlessness that makes them feel particularly suited to a specific location, and the uninformed might think they are as much part of an area as the area itself. Regent Street is full of shops that espouse that kind of retail design whether it’s J Crew or the Gant flagship.
Hackett, Regent Street
Size 9,580 sq ft
Number of floors Three
Development time Two months
Annual rent £1.6m
Opened End of 2013
All of the stores mentioned so far cast a knowing eye at what it means to be British, with all of the heritage that the tourist horde which throngs this long, elegant thoroughfare considers an intrinsic part of a visit to the UK capital.
There is a popular idea of what it means to be British – gin, polo, tweeds and suchlike – that informs this view. But while most of the fashion shops on Regent Street have at least a few such elements, the full Monty is rather harder to find.
Unless that is, you happen to find yourself in the new Hackett flagship store. As an example of all that a tourist, or indeed a local, might consider posh-boy Brit, it is hard to beat.
Michael Carey, Hackett director of creative services and store development, says: “We really tried to do something different here – that was the driving force. It was also quite collaborative between the various departments at Hackett.”
It is also a carefully crafted interior with three floors where visitors are made to feel as if they have stepped into a rehearsal for the Henley Regatta or perhaps the green room for extras in Four Weddings and a Funeral. This kind of thing is not easily achieved and it starts from the moment one enters the store.
The initial view is of a metal staircase and a jumble of plain unfinished planks of wood. The wood is in fact suspended in the space between one flight of stairs and the next and is a temporary sculpture. The staircase is rather more permanent-looking and in case of any doubt, the rise of each stair is adorned alternately with the words ‘Hackett’ and ‘London’.
So far, so predictable, but at least the shopper is left in no doubt about where they are, and the use of dark metal with dark wood bannisters for the staircase immediately lends the interior an upscale feel. As the eye travels up the staircase, it is greeted by a large screen on the landing between the ground and first floors.
“Lighting is used to highlight particular pieces of clothing and ambient light levels are low”
John Ryan, Stores editor
In terms of content, what can be viewed on the screen is London-specific, living up to the initial promise provided by the stair risers. To the left is casualwear, which consists of polo shirts of the kind that every aspiring retailer of Brit-style has to stock, as well as checked and plain shirts, coloured chinos, lightweight jackets and casual blazers.
All of this is merchandised in a lifestyle manner rather than by commodity, enabling the shopper to think in terms of outfit instead of item. Alongside the dark wood panelling, Panama hats, deck shoes, bow ties and sundry other English gent’s accessories are used to position the offer, as well as more works of art.
As is the current trend in fashion stores, the lighting is used to highlight particular pieces of clothing and ambient light levels are quite low.
At the back of the shop, next to a graphic advising ‘Drink more gin’, positioned between two stags’ heads, there is the cash desk. This involves yet more dark wood, another dead stag and screens along the upper perimeter wall.
On the first floor the mood changes. This is still regatta country, but beyond the fully functioning gentlemen’s club-style bar, which does tempt with its display of Beefeater gin, there is a formalwear floor where bespoke suits can be ordered. This is the personal tailoring area and good use has been made of the natural daylight that comes through the large windows that overlook Regent Street.
The ambience, with the morning-suited headless body forms, is more Savile Row than Regent Street and the carpet with its tessellated pattern ensures a hushed luxury on this floor that is appropriate to the stock.
It is fair to remark, however, that this is a younger, sportier take on formalwear than might be the case in parts of Savile Row.
Leaving this room and pausing perhaps for another snifter at the gin bar, the shopper will pass the personalisation service. This involves monogramming shirts and other items with a machine that is set back in a small dark wood space of its own. Beyond this are formal accessories, where the apposite note is struck by vintage wooden shoe lasts that are used as 3D graphics on the wall and leather banquettes in the mid-floor.
In the basement is kidswear. For Hackett that really does seem to comprise miniature versions of what the father is likely to be wearing. It also means a mid-shop tree (created by the design outfit that worked on the sets for the Harry Potter films) and child-scale metal vintage racing cars in the mid-shop. The other half of the floor is devoted to Aston Martin Racing clothing, in association with Hackett.
None of this is cheap and while Hackett comes from an aspirational starting place, this store really does equate to a little piece of top-notch on a street that is already chock-full of better-end retailers.
The store’s distinguishing characteristic is the essential Britishness of its interior – a quality that sets it apart from the Brit wannabes along the street. Carey comments: “We wanted the whole thing to be about theatre and we also want things to change two or three times in a season so there is always something new for shoppers to look at.”
At 9,580 sq ft, the store is a significant investment by Hackett. It is also its largest shop worldwide, about three times larger than a standard branch. The majority of Hackett stores are modest affairs when compared with this one, but the essential ethos that underpins the offer has been preserved.
The store is a little over six months old, but feels much older in spite of the contemporary elements.
At £645 per square foot for Zone A, it set a record for the area when Hackett signed on the 15-year lease dotted line last year, taking over the space from the failed Ferrari store. Regent Street is the better for its presence.