Flannels opens first London flagship, designed like a prismatic puzzle
It’s unusual for an early 20th century artwork to inspire the concept behind a multimillion pound, multi-floor, multi-brand retail space. When Italian architects pconp and artist Riccardo Previdi began devising Flannels’ latest 18,000 sq ft flagship boutique on Central London’s Oxford Street, intriguingly, Odilon Redon’s 1903 pastel drawing Ophelia was their first reference point. ‘It offers a dreamlike view,’ explains Filippo Della Lucia, project leader at pconp. ‘It subverts classic ideals, aligning with Romanticism and Symbolism. It’s about a new means of experience.’ Adds Previdi, ‘The artwork has been the source from which to draw everything we needed.’
New experience is integral to Flannels’ latest landmark opening. The retail behemoth – first opened in the North of England in 1976 – is in the midst of an astonishing expansion. It currently boasts 44 locations in the UK, and has opened 17 new stores in the last two years, including a May-opened 20,000 sq ft Newcastle store, designed by London and Miami-based Argent. Ambitiously, Flannels plans to open another 60 outposts by 2022.
A host of the Flannels’ luxury competitor’s have recently opened flagships and multibrand spaces further West on Bond Street – the world’s third most expensive retail street – including Celine, Loewe, Givenchy, and Alexander McQueen, while Matchesfashion’s 2018-opened experiential townhouse is a stone’s throw away in Carlos Place. But Flannels has found its first London home on the East End of Central London’s most famous buzzy high street, neighboured not by high end boutiques, but by Marks & Spencer and Muji. ‘We wanted to make a statement with the new location,’ says Michael Murray, head of elevation at Flannels. ‘Oxford Street is one of the best shopping destinations in the world, so it’s the perfect spot for us. We want our shoppers to feel part of a community – everyone is welcome.’
The majestic four floor space is a playful melting pot of references, bringing together everything from the prismatic tones of Odilon’s Ophelia and its ethereal, gothic elements to Arts and Crafts emblems, Brutalism to Baroque, Batman to Bladerunner. Inside, it houses men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and accessories, from a roster of established and emerging labels, including Burberry, Off-White, Versace and Ganni.
‘We call it Incompiuto’ says Lucia of the flagship’s interior, which is conceived around the idea of a gutted home, comprised of different and mismatched layers of wallpaper and flooring, all peeled back to reveal slivers of different decorative strata. Modular fixtures include wall panels emblazoned with bold chevron stripes, inspired by Italian medieval architecture, or printed with William Morris thistle and acanthus patterns, blown up to hyperbolic size and imagined in bold pop colour. Zipping between decades, movements and genres, pconp has focused on the ‘everyday’, using materials like galvanised metals for fixtures – ‘a treatment used for trays in hotels’ – and splodgey colourful Silipol columns, ‘used in the Milan Metro system’. Geometric black and white marble flooring, antique Persian rugs and ecclesiastical bespoke chandeliers, inspired by 1970s furniture designer Paul Evans, complete the postmodern puzzle.
Employing everyday materials and drawing from a breath of influences, pconp – which has also designed spaces for Gucci, Tom Ford and Saint Laurent – aims to create a more inclusive and widely interpretable concept of luxury. On the second floor, a concept space will also host roving services and experiences and guest collaborators and concessions, including takeovers by The Shoe Surgeon, Watch Anish and Bang & Olufsen. Flannels will also debut a Style & Collect service, allowing shoppers to purchase styles online and pick them up in store.
‘We think luxury today culminates as a story to be told,’ Lucia explains. There are numerous narrative strands to be sought across Flannels’ four floors in London’s Soho; another chapter in the retailer’s unfolding bricks-and-mortar tale. §