When British sub-culture fashion favorites The Donnelly Brothers and Silver Spoon Attire (SSA) began exploring the idea of a joint retail venture, “We knew we wanted to rewrite the industry’s rules,” says Anthony Donnelley.
The man who co-founded Gio-Goi with his brother Christopher in the midst of Manchester’s 1980s indie dance scene wasn’t likely to go shopping on London’s New Bond Street or Oxford Street for a conventional store. Both the Donnellys and SSA founders Damian Collins and Avigail Claire were looking for a retailing solution with the same immediacy as their clothing. The here-today, gone-tomorrow appeal of a pop-up store was a perfect fit.
Both lines already had sufficient brand strength to fuel interest in their new concept, 143, and get people to check out the Lowndes Court pop-up store (fittingly, just off Carnaby Street). Gio-Goi’s clothing regularly shows up on the right people for their youth-oriented market: rock celebrities such as Anthony Donnelly’s long-time friend Pete Doherty (who collaborated on Gio-Goi’s 2007 spring collection), Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan, Amy Winehouse and The Arctic Monkeys and SSA counts music world A-listers such as Kanye West among its fans. Each company also does brisk direct-to-consumer business on its web site (brisk enough in the case of Gio-Goi to attract the attention of the global brand management company, Pentland Group, which took a 20 percent stake last December).
From the outset the Donnellys and SSA’s leadership saw 143 as a stand-alone retail outlet, not just a complement to their virtual retailing or a build out their existing presence in stores throughout the UK and Europe. “143 will operate as an independent brand,” says Anthony Donnelly. “It will have its own website. Gio-goi is its own animal, acting independently as it has always done.”
EXCLUSIVITY FOR THE MASSES
143 (the number of letters in each word of I Love You) morphs the pop-up shop concept from a brand support tool into a landside portal for e-commerce. Unlike the temporary stores that punch up marketing campaigns for brands from banks to discounters, 143 showcases limited edition international products that are “market accessible to all consumer demographics,” says Collins.
So shoppers could browse Gio-Goi tee-sheets screen printed and individually numbered by 143’s designer, 22-year-old Londoner Kate Moross, alongside Silver Spoon Bespoke eyewear and its spring/summer 2009 collection; exquisite millinery from Pas Commeles Moutons (yes, as seen on Gossip Girl); Lego accessories and jewelry from Dee and Ricky (famous for the craftsmanship on Marc Jacob accessories); housewares from design duo Joseph Joseph; ; clothes by Paloy Horwang (one of the electro-fuelled band “The Diet Pills”); a Jamie Bowler sculpture and “candy from our youth.”
Pricing also has a something-for-everyone range from a few dollars for a ring or a “creative bible” such as “When Fletcher and Hey Met” to $10,000 or more for designer items.
Moross’ interiors framed the eclectic merchandise with an equally quirky aesthetic. She describes it “totally rad,” but that doesn’t do justice to the complexity of the shopfitting necessary in this tight space. Fluorescent lights and mirrors help customers focus on key items, as do contrasting textures like acrylic and foam or handpicked props with a playful attitude. As for the triangles scattered across the pink-toned walls, “I have a fascination with three-sided shapes as well as illegible typography and freeform lettering,” says Moross.
Bloggers who visited the shop during its two-week run at the end of May called the space and the products “stunning,” “an avid shopping experience,” and “a pioneeringly different pop-up.” In fact, they complained that the shop’s stock was “greatly depleted” by the second weekend. That reaction was enough to convince the Donnellys and SSA to take the concept on the road. Anthony Donnelly says SSA and Gio-Goi plan an international roll-out “supported by local and international talent.”
GUERILLA MARKETING TIE-INS
And watch for some guerilla marketing, from a mention at one of The Donnellys’ events—like the party that drew 2000 people for a showcase of English bands and DJs in Berlin in July to short films, like www.yourownclothing.com launched in support of the Your Own brand. It helps to have Deadmau5 and Stephen Graham wearing the clothes. “We think these are all really cool ways to introduce brands,” says Anthony Donnelly.
Cool it may be, but it will still take work to make it success. Pop-stores have certain advantages, says Alison Aslin, senior project director, Pragma Consulting, London. They can bring the brand to the customer and “pilot unchartered geography or a new target segment before a more permanent investment is made,” she says. “But there is still staff to manage, tills that can be remote from a main EPOS system, extra challenges regarding stock security and replenishment and the clunkiness of a ‘foldaway’ store,” she adds.