Viewed from the air, London's Seven Dials - with its boutique-lined spokes that spin north of Covent Garden - is the perfect choice for a hub of bicycle-based retailing. Brooks England, the connoisseur's saddle maker, certainly thinks so. It soft-launched a store there in November but delayed the official opening of the global flagship, christened B1866 (after the year the brand was founded), till today, keen to iron out any creases before the big push. The official opening is also neatly timed to coincide with the launch of three new leather bags, designed in collaboration with design students at the RCA, and produced in the same Birmingham factory that has been making Brooks' leather saddles for 150 years.
Brooks is increasingly trying to leverage its cult reputation to become a fully-fledged lifestyle brand and the store is seen as central to that push. Italian saddle maker Selle Royal bought the company in 2002, and since then, it has added clothing and a wider range of bags. The new store shows off the full-collection, while in the next store slot it has installed a pop-up space for PEdAL ED, the Japanese cycle clothing brand it bought seven years ago. If PEdAL ED's three-month residency is a success, the store will go from pop-up to permanent.
The B1866 store features a lovely little basement room where clients can order custom saddles. It will also host some of the world's leading frame makers who will offer a full custom build service. Brooks says it is looking to add a New York store when it finds the right location.