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Warehouse, London

This year we begin our reviews in the heart of our capital where we visit a fashion icon that has achieved longevity through defining the modern woman’s urban lifestyle.  The popular fashion brand has now embarked upon a major overhaul of its range and also launched a new concept for its retail chain.  The flagship store located opposite the Oxford Circus Tube exit on Argyll Street is the vision of the future for this popular brand.

Warehouse is back with a vengeance.  The store may be small at 251 square metres but it sure has attitude – as do the clothes themselves.  This is an entirely new look for the retailer and it is entirely cool.  From the outside the window display mannequins set the scene, overhead light boxes bring drama into the moody interior and a large digital screen can be glimpsed at the back of the store - its moving imagery draws you in.

Designed by CK this magnificent environment is well finished with a very polished execution.  The design strives to bring the city inside the store and the result is utterly convincing.  Concrete floors underfoot, brick walls either side and a narrow strip of skyline overhead all combine with industrial style shopfittings to create an urban look, giving this midmarket brand high end appeal.

From the moment you enter the store the impact hits you.  It’s well laid out, well thought out and all the components are well made.  The store is easy to navigate; the clothes rails and display units on the ground floor lead you to the staircase at the rear of the store; straight yellow lines on the floor also aid your path.  Galvanised roller shutters enhance the industrial feel.  Minus the ‘cool’ clothing you could easily be in a converted New York warehouse or similar, the design is so convincing. 

The designers have gone to great lengths to ensure that all the materials and surface treatments selected originated from industrial and warehouse usage.  They have been incorporated into the store in an innovative way.  Polycarbonate sheets that are set against a timber structure and illuminated from within, line the building facade that sits along the staircase.  These same materials are used to create distinctive visual merchandising devices throughout the store.  Static, galvanised roller shutters sit in front of white light boxes that line the walls at multiple intervals and flood bright light into the store.  The colour palette also conveys a sense of the city; dark, grey and moody with bold, yellow highlights as used for street lines and bright blue sky as glimpsed above rows of towering office blocks. 

The clothing rails, which are set on an angle to lead you to the staircase and the main sales area below ground, are of simple construction.  Angular metal uprights and rails are painted yellow and sit on polycarbonate bases.  Display tables, which showcase folded items and accessories, are crafted from bare timber.  A simple, angular construction with narrow drawers presents a modern take on the old fashioned plan chest drawers. The staircase is also cast concrete with a glass balustrade.  A simple metal rail is painted yellow and used as a handrail that extends the yellow line down to the lower ground sales floor.

As you descend the urban vibe intensifies.  The ceiling bears down upon you and you are surrounded on all sides by angular metal racks and rails suspended from above.  A strip of light on the ceiling cuts into the clothing displays below, carving out a path between them like narrow city streets – a digital image of birds flying moves across the light box.  A row of clothing rails are positioned along the centre of the store and lead you around the key collections returning to the rear of the store below the staircase and the fitting rooms.  This is a very sophisticated interior that launches a fresh face to a firm fashion favourite.

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