As you might know, I went to the Opening Ceremony pop-up store in July last year (visit 1) and that was great; the staff were helpful and friendly, the clothes selection from both house and other stocked brands were great and the set up was easy to browse and locate. New collections from edgier brands in a separate room, womenswear upstairs and menswear downstairs. I remember spotting some JUUN. J neoprene sweaters and KTZ garb that were appealing, but like everything in the store out of my price range. That leads to my question? How the fuck are OC profitable? The clothes they stock are aimed at twentysomethings but isn’t the defining feature of twentysomethings: ‘I got no money, and rent is too high’?
Their clientele is large in Asia, I suppose, with many young and rich experimental shoppers. I read recently an explanation for why Japanese men dress better than those anywhere else: there is no gay stigma or misrepresentation so men dress freely as females. Large also in New York where Carol and Humberto started and arrangements like those in Girls afford Marnie to buy a vinyl dress, but London? ‘Austerity’ Britain?? It’s surprising and not surprising that they are doing well (after the pop-up came the permanent base). Their fan base is so niche but loyal that I think wherever they set up, people will follow, to find clothes you can’t find anywhere else. Also I think for most OC London patrons the generalisations would go along the lines of , ‘I got no money, but I got that Jeremy Scott sweat’ or ‘I’m from Dalston and work for myself/a fashion startup/consultancy/PR/advertising agency/designer… as one career‘.
In all seriousness, OC is great. But the London store is not. I went there a couple of weeks ago during London Fashion Week, a mere coincidence, after walking through Soho, past Machine-A for which I still don’t why I did not enter as they stock Shaun Samson and Raf Simons ( I need to go there), and ended up sneaking through Covent Garden to the store. I must add that I didn’t get much time to spend there, about 15 mins, but I think that was enough to formulate my opinion. First I will start with the good points; it was well lit, large and the clothing selection was great. I could expect nothing less from their buyers being always on the pulse, and I saw a selection of Marques’ Almeida, Wanda Nylon, J.W. Anderson SS13 Mens*, Kenzo and Proenza Schouler . There was one Lou Dalton white and blue mesh shirt that caught my fancy though it was, as always, crazy money at £340. It was spacious in parts, especially a menswear section to the left of the store leaving space to roam around. The wide range was satisfying but it was how they were presented in the store that annoyed me.
When I walked in, there was an amalgam of new designers arranged into a obstructive square so either side was a pathway and more clothes. But the pathway was way to small and you had to bounce mannequins and people to get through (It was LFW and busier than when I last went but not enough to warrant jostling past people and clothes). The racks were full to bursting in some places, the Opening Ceremony selection, and it was hard to take an item off the rack to properly examine it. On others, like the Proenza Schouler section I counted about 5 garments on one rack. I know it is good to explore a store, which I think is what they were trying to achieve, and find your own way but there was no consistency like the pop-up and that hindered my shopping experience. The Claire de Rouen books section was a little stand next to the changing quarter. Oh yes. The changing quarter. While I did not try anything on, I could see the changing rooms were spacious and comfortable with a seat and mirror, albeit with a curtain closure. I don’t know about you, but I always feel a little exposed in curtain close changing rooms. I’m sorry, but if I am going to spend anywhere near £500 on anything in any store I want a door that shuts, closes and locks with a satisfying click.
I remember reading somewhere that Carol said that they rotate the stock quite frequently in their stores so there is always something different … and if you see something nice you have to buy it on the spot. Does that mean having a sparsely selected accessories section? For such a big chunk at the back of the store, there were only a few items and what was there was Kenzo. I like Kenzo but it felt like a bombardment and when I looked for something other than Kenzo accessories, I was met by a black mid hiking boots and… and…
I think they devoted too much space for the tills, which take up the two left windows in the photo, and an art installation that really serves no purpose. I have nothing against art in stores, if anything it makes the shopping experience more interesting, but when it’s taking away from the clothes, then no. Carol and Humberto got a great space in central London, with character filled façade and open plan layout but, I don’t think used it the best they could. They said they have plans to move into the basement which would be great as the more clothes on offer, the better. I would take out the installation to expand the books section, add way more other brand men’s accessories and construct proper changing rooms.
I love the choice as it’s so great to see international, independent and small designers being showcased in one place and because of this I will definitely be back to hunt the items I can actually purchase, after all this is only a short visit 2 (1st to the new store) of many. When I browsed at the store, I felt a pang of happiness at the clothes, all of amazing quality and new season in stock. There is nothing like feeling clothes which provokes a connection between the designer, especially one faraway, and customer through the garment. The best stores heighten this and keep you coming back for more. I just feel a little sad that OC London did not live up to my expectations the first time round, but hopefully my view will change on further inspection.
* I had an idea for how to style the sheer shirt and trousers of SS13 and make it more masculine. I thought of layering it open over a Richard Nicoll SS13 jumpsuit with rolled sleeves and Jerusalem black sandals/Lanvin derby shoes would look better. They have also styled it well on the OC website.