Uniqlo and Theory pull out all the stops as first Europe combo store opens
Fast Retailing is making last minute preparations for the opening of its combined Uniqlo-Theory store in Regent Street, London on Thursday. The first such store in Europe, it has transformed the former Superdry flagship into a light and airy space featuring Theory’s women’s and menswear, plus the regular Uniqlo offer alongside a focus on special collections and collaborations.
It also has an upscale feel — understandable given the presence of Theory, but less so with the much more affordable Uniqlo label being the dominant brand space-wise.
But that ties in well with the street’s development as an even higher-end shopping thoroughfare with Burberry right next door, Bally and Mulberry opposite and a new Marc Jacobs store nearby coming soon.
The company said on Tuesday that it's Uniqlo’s “most significant store to date” and the opening “reinforces the company’s strong commitment to the UK”.
With Regent Street being home to one of the first stores Uniqlo opened when it arrived in the UK (its first-ever European market) 20 years ago, Uniqlo Europe CEO Taku Morikawa said: “The store was designed to reflect the Spirit of London and aims to make our LifeWear offering more accessible and sustainable for our loyal customers who have supported us in the UK.”
Covering 1,900 sq ft of selling space, it has a modern feel but also includes some of the earlier features of the heritage building. The retail area covers three floors (including the basement level), while there are several floors of offices above that, housing the brands’ European HQ teams.
The Theory area has its own dedicated space that’s clearly distinguished from Uniqlo. It was created in partnership with Architecture studio Sybarite as a "sculpted and curvaceous space created from natural materials including cork and organic clay”.
For Uniqlo, as mentioned, the store includes a heavier focus on collab collections than either the previous Uniqlo Regent Street branch or on Oxford Street nearby.
The store carries both women’s and menswear, plus a strong kidswear edit and other categories such as intimates. It has an extensive selection of more sustainable pieces — all clearly signposted — as well as Repair and Recycle bins used for contributing to the Re-Uniqlo circular programme and donating to the UN Refugee Agency. Plus there’s a dedicated denim space that brings women’s and men’s denim together for the first time, but with an overall gender-neutral feel.
And when the customer wants to pay, they can either do so at traditional tills or use a self-checkout facility.
Interestingly, the company has restored the basement space in which the location’s earlier tenant — Austin Reed, which moved there in 1911 — housed a gentleman’s barbershop.
The distinctive space now hosts special events, as well as Uniqlo’s Masterpiece collection, against a backdrop of restored art deco lighting and original marble columns. To kick off the store, there’s an art-meets-fashion link-up with Central Saint Martins too. There’s also the restoration area where items such as jeans and tops can be repaired invisibly or in a more eye-catching way using traditional Japanese Sashiko embroidery and patching techniques.
The retailer’s very first Repair Studio is in partnership with East London repair shop, Studio Masachuka.
And as part of the Spirit of London concept mentioned earlier by Taku Morikawa, Uniqlo linked up with long-tine collaborator Tate on an open call for Tate Collective, the gallery's membership for 16-25 year-olds. They were invited to creatively respond to the Spirit of London theme.
Taking inspiration from the evolution of London and its diversity, three winners were selected. Young artists Rosie Haynes, Flatboy and Yolande Mutale each created a series of 12 digital art pieces that showed what they love about London. These works now feature on the stairway walls of the store in a display reminiscent of the ad boards seen on tube station escalators.
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