Aug 16, 2018 | By Joanne Thomas
Oct 18, 2017
Snuggled down a side road near Angel, Islington in London is what looks like a store window, with a coffee shop inside. There are plants visible through the big glass windows and even a selection of glazed pastries set aside to entice consumers. The thing is, this is not your traditional shop floor. Beyond the entry point coffee machine, tables and plants, is the unexpected retail product: collections including brands that the sales and communications showroom Paper Mache Tiger represent. This is actually a showroom and shop combined in one.
In the traditional fashion sense, a showroom used to be a place for press and stylists only, who booked by appointment to see the latest designs for the season, to write about them and use them in photoshoots. But for the Paper Mache Tiger they realised that their showroom was getting a lot of interest, and turning their showroom into a store would also help the foreign fashion brands that they represented who were suffering from not having other physical London store stockists. And so, the Paper Mache Tiger store was born a year ago.
On a daily basis, the space is run by retail staff, with the sales and communications team taking weekend shifts. As the staff on site told me, pretty much ‘everything but the couch can be bought’, from the fashion brands, to the candles, stationery, vintage lamps (scoured on buying trips by the team) and crystals. There are also in-store events, with plans for an upcoming Christmas party open to everyone, press and consumers. This is not traditional PR, and it is not traditional retail, it’s a sign of the future.
The space itself is light, breezy and inviting. Consumers can get their hands on exclusive Australian and Korean brands alongside Munich cashmere brand Allude, as well as fashion favourites: Être Cécile and Rejina Pyo, next to in-house brand Herculie. Director of Paper Mache Tiger, Kyle Robinson started his brand Herculie with a range of simple garments that began life as a mini uniform for staffers, but the logo tees, shirts and denim offerings became so popular that he started selling them, and the showroom/shop was the perfect retail spot for that.
And Paper Mache Tiger isn’t the only showroom/store. Just this month new brand Galvan London launched with a space in Notting Hill. Again from afar the space looks like an independent retail boutique, but actually it serves as the brand’s showroom, studio and workspace. You can shop the current collections or schedule a fitting. There are Instagram-worthy plants everywhere and the experience is thoroughly relaxing, not your average shopping experience.
The dual role of these store/showrooms is an interesting one that works for many reasons; the brick and mortar offers the brands a chance to see just who is buying their product and get real time feedback from consumers, such as a request for more colourways. And, with every company looking for more ways to monetize it’s also a great use of excess space, by combining the workspace and retail all under one roof.
It’s also reflective of what we are seeing across fashion with traditional industry-only spaces being ditched in favour of an invite everyone approach. From fashion shows to trade shows, the closed door aspect of fashion is being replaced by a more welcoming ‘invite all’ approach, with Tommy Hilfiger inviting fans to fashion shows, and trade shows like Agenda in Long Beach becoming more consumer facing by hosting a music festival as part of the experience, it’s a noteworthy shift.
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