An international fashion brand like Kenneth Cole would seem to have little problem entering an overseas market. And yet, launching sites in two fashionable London shopping districts presented some challenges.
"Fashion is faster and more aggressive in Europe," says Nick Short of Raylian Ltd., the project's London-based design firm. "Fashion trends have a very fast turnaround, and high street brands such as Top Shop, Mango and Zara are adept at translating designer trends from the catwalk and producing cheaper alternatives. Consequently, high-end luxury brands and designer fashion labels have to work harder to justify their premium costs, especially to a younger, fashion-reactive crowd."
So, it was not enough for Kenneth Cole merely to take its Fifth Avenue/Michigan Avenue/Sunset Boulevard concept and plunk it down into trendy Chelsea or stylish Kensington.
"Kenneth Cole retail interiors are urban, urban, urban," says Short. "The brief was to Europeanize it all slightly without diluting the brand, by using subtler light fittings, for example. In America, they use quite hefty pendants and PAR technology, which creates a yellow effect and consumes a lot of power. The new store design nods to the U.K."
At the larger (4680-square-foot), two-story King's Road flagship location, for example, the shopfront was toned down to a pale gray concrete that subtly blended in with the street environment. Prominent store windows tell a product story and hint at the interior. Catwalk footage is rear-projected onto wafer-thin Lumin-oz screens less than a quarter-inch thick, as slim and sleek as the models, and allows the interior to feel ultra-modern.
The smaller (915-square-foot) Sloane Street location is more of a boutique, with an Italian concrete tile floor, a large glass entrance and plasma screen technology.
Raylian worked closely with lighting designer Jonathan Rush at Ansorg Lighting (London). "Due to the fairly low ceilings, particularly at King's Road, it was important to use luminaires that didn't disrupt the clean lines," says Rush. "We used Ansorg's Cardo system to allow for integration of wall washing, downlighting and spotlighting in both CDM-TC and low-voltage halogen within one neat platform. The perimeter merchandise was illuminated by one central CDM-T wall washer with a CDM-TC spotlight to further highlight specific merchandise on either side. These were housed within one square module, aiding installation and creating a neat ceiling pattern, which was used to mirror the surface lines of the interior and lead customers into the store."
"We acted as Kenneth Cole's eyes and ears in the U.K.," says Paul White, Raylian's project management director. "They are e-mail junkies and were keen to have daily contact - but then it's to be expected with such a tight lead time of four weeks and for such prominent launch sites as these. The client was quite nervous since its U.K. entry was so high-profile, and there was no room for mistakes."
Client: Kenneth Cole, New York
Design: Raylian London Ltd., London - Nick Short, Paul White
Suppliers: Raylian London Ltd., London (fixtures, furniture); Ansorg Lighting, London (lighting)