After debuting its department-less department store concept in Birmingham last year, Harvey Nichols has today unveiled its new menswear concept space that marks the first step in the retailer’s four-year, Knightsbridge flagship refurbishment.
Working with retail specialists Virgile + Partners, the firm has completely overhauled the store’s two lower ground floors, opening up what were narrow, corridor joined rooms into a sprawling gallery that will no doubt change the way men prefer to shop.
The 28,000 sq ft space not only houses 50 new brands and man-sized change rooms (complete with phone chargers), it also turns traditional merchandising on its head. In the Denim room, wardrobe essentials become wardrobe solutions when grouped by product type (i.e. white t-shirts, leather jackets, denim shirts at a range of price points), while in the user-friendly Tailoring studio, the suiting spread is defined by occasion: day, formal and tuxedo.
‘It was formally made up of shop-in-shops,’ explains group buying director Anita Barr of the 360 men's concept. ‘We wanted to turn the store into a boutique, focused around the environment and product.’
Just like the Birmingham location, bold material choices help segue the destination’s varied lifestyle offerings. ‘Almost every wall features a different material, representing each new brand,’ adds Barr, of the Contemporary gallery where one is textured with cut copper pipes and another mounted with wooden eggcups on repeat. ‘It’s bringing in Harvey Nichols' signature wit and humour,’ says Virgile + Partners director Carlos Virgile.
This playfulness has also been toyed with in the ‘Off-Duty’ room, where his team has had plenty of fun collecting childhood memorabilia that’s been housed behind glass in elegant display cases – water pistols, model aircraft sets and board games included. ‘Our studio has been covered in toys for weeks,' adds partner Ewald Damen. 'The team may have enjoyed this task a little too much!'
Moving past the big boys toys, is the elegant Tailoring gallery, where the architects have steered away from the traditional moulded trappings of London’s Savile Row. The pair have instead installed copper boxes set with textured vintage glass to form striking display units. ‘Moving away from traditional British tailoring, we were more inspired by 1950s Milanese design,’ clarifies Damen.
In the Contemporary room resin pacified zinc is laid under painted marble glass. 'It looks like Venetian paper,' remarks Virgile. Here, they were hoping to unearth some stalwart columns in the 9-month dig, but have instead had to create their own pillars using pebblecrete that's then been enclosed by glass to great 3D effect.
‘The main challenge was the ceiling height,’ adds Damen, looking up at the Bose speaker system that runs along exposed pipes overhead, ‘so it's left raw and industrial in the lowest ceiling sections.’ Similarly clever is their use of pavement lights, which now bounce light around the Off-Duty gallery (formally the stock room) thanks to mirrors smartly placed below its hanging rails.
That said, very little is bolted down. The department is dotted with vintage and bespoke furnishings (including rugs, which warm up the resin and marble floors), which the pair have been collecting to reinforce a more residential rather than retail feel.
This notion will be further realised on 11 May with the launch of Project 109. This is Harvey Nichols' new lifestyle driven concept space (think gifts, tech gadgets, glasses, scents and grooming products), which will host a curated series of installations and pop-ups, along with a men’s barber and contemporary Basement Bar & Kitchen in collaboration with Wallpaper*. The latter will be open independently of the main store's hours, serving juices and breakfast first thing, and cocktails and light dishes well into the night. Knightsbridge won’t know what’s hit it, which is exactly what Harvey Nichols set out to achieve.