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Now we move swiftly from food to fashion to review our next newcomer, which opened its doors on London’s fashionable Regent Street at the end of March.  COS, or Collection of Style, is a brand new venture into a completely new market by a firm fashion favourite, H&M. And, where better to locate your first UK flagship store than within the grand and beautiful 1930’s building that formerly belonged to Liberty’s.  It was a success before it had even begun!

Just over a year ago a first brief was presented to six London retail design companies and having been short listed, H & M flew William Russell of Pentagram Design out to Stockholm for a meeting with the heads of clothing, Michael and Rebecca and Karl Johann, who was heading up the whole project.  He was given a very tight turnaround in which to create a store design concept, which reflected “the clothing collections made up of four sections for both womenswear and menswear”.  This he claims was his starting point, he says, “to make smaller collections work within a larger store”.  And so he devised the railing system, which skirts in and around the store’s two floors.  At this point the Liberty’s site had not been secured and he was given the plans for Berlin on which they held an option.

Within two weeks he was back presenting his ideas and was subsequently selected.  Pentagram’s design was simple, classic and calm to allow the clothes to be the stars.  A palette of mellow oak, black steel and dyed grey was used throughout the store.  The floor is of end grain timber mosaic, which is rich and warm and contrasts against the railing system that links and, at the same time, separates the clothing and which is made of chemically black steel that is used in armoury.  This contrasts further with the freestanding furniture and shelving, which are oak - all very elegant and subtle!  The dyed grey concrete at floor level has been used to further compliment the other materials and edges the floor, flanks the stairs and dresses the cash desks.  The railing system is modular and the shelving can be changed around and repositioned and, over time, the store can take on different appearances.  The lighting is also kept bold yet surprisingly simple, no frilly chandeliers in this store, just large cubes of light that allow your eye to flow through the entire store.  Most of the ceiling is left unfinished, just blacked out to add to the effect.


The Liberty site was secured shortly after Pentagram was selected for the job, giving William Russell ample time to create and build a prototype space before the actual launch.  Every piece was built and developed before full manufacture and was totally bespoke and hand made.  They then worked on the concept with the main contractor, RTC, to achieve the ‘look’, but within the contractor’s own capabilities.  What a change!  There is hardly a trace of its predecessor.  The unit was completely refitted; even the huge escalators were removed and replaced with a simple staircase at the far end of the ground floor.  Although, as in Liberty’s, they have devoted the window areas to relaxation, with sofas and lamps.


When asked where he drew his inspiration from, his answer was honest yet surprising.  Mr Russell says, “I don’t know, honestly it just comes out of nowhere. I think a degree of experience with retail interiors and I try to work with what the client presents me and that I believe fits with what they want me to do”.  Well wherever this understated elegance comes from it does the job perfectly, for the store was packed out on the opening day with customers and competitors all wanting to get a look at the new ‘look’ on Regent Street.  He continues, “The client is really happy with the store, which is great and there is lots of positive feedback on the interior too.  It was adventurous for them.  A brave move in retail and very exciting to be involved in”.

COS has also opened five further stores in Germany, Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, plus Brussels and The Hague.  And Mr Russell is hoping that further stores will be rolled out globally.



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