Monday, 20 July 2009

Style Salvage Speaks to... bStore

The UK used to be known as the nation of shopkeepers but over the years the retail landscape has changed from busy, bustling stores to empty and even boarded up shop fronts. We can honestly count the number of exciting stores in London using our fingers. One finger outstretched is for the fashion mecca that is bstore. Savile Row's bStore needs no introduction but for those of you who are a little slow, it is an independent boutique which has supported some of the most exciting design talent to emerge in recent years. In addition to the store, b Store's partners Kirk Beattie, José Neves and Matthew Murphy have added to the brand by launching a magazine (b paper), their own clothing line (b Clothing) which is going from strength to strength and their renowned footwear line (b Footwear). We were fortunate enough to talk shop and toast the existence of one of the best menswear brands in London with its proprietor Matthew Murphy...

Kirk and Matthew posing in store for Ponystep.

Style Salvage: How did it all start for you? What were your inspirations, your dreams and the driving catalyst behind it all?
Matthew Murphy: I met Jose and he wanted to open a flagship store for his footwear brand b. We (Kirk, Mathew and Jose) then came up with the concept to open a store in Central London that would not only showcase the complete b collection but would buy in products from young creatives. It would be a platform for young designers. Our vision was to launch b as a brand but with an identity, we also felt there was no store in London at the time that supported the amount of young talent coming out of the London colleges.

SS: What was the first and last item you remember selling in the store?
MM: The first item was a pair of b store white oxford shoe's, this went onto being one of our best selling shoes. A Bernhard Willhelm belted men's jersey dress was the last.

SS: bstore moved to its current Savile Row location in 2006 from Conduit Street, how was the reaction from the tailors of this most famous street? Was your move to Savile Row a calculated move, or more of a chance opportunity?
MM: We have been accepted slowly, not that anyone was against but in the last year a few of the tailor's have ventured into the store to understand what we are about. We had outgrown our Conduit Street store but felt we needed to stay in the area, so when the store came available on Savile Row it was an opportunity we could not miss.

bstore popped in to Selfridges last September. Image courtesy of DazedDigital.

SS: When we think of bstore we have an overriding sense that it represents something 'new', from the desire to showcase new creative talent to how you go about selling it but it really isn't new anymore, how do you do it?
MM: We have never changed our vision. Our brand has evolved and become our main focus but we have continued to support young artists and designers and constantly look to work with new creatives to continue to push the store forward.

SS: Collaboration with creative talent is an integral part of your brand identity, (art installations, working with graduates, etc). What have been your favourite collaborations to date? Who would you love to work with in the future?
MM: We did a t-shirt collaboration with Judy Blame about four years ago, both the t shirt's and party were very memorable. The latest collab with G-Shock has been great fun and we are really pleased with the watches. If we could do something with David Bowie that would be our dream, he is a constant source of inspiration for us.

SS: Do you believe that the way men and women shop really is fundamentally different- i.e. men are 'hunter-gatherers' and more focused on what they want while women accumulate and adapt? How do you think online shopping has affected this?
MM: They are definitely completely different shoppers, men are very brand/shop loyal, once they feel comfortable they tend to return... where as women are always looking for the new thing, our women's area has to be regularly re-invented, adding new designers each season.

b store's AW09 collection plays with proportions...making us rethink high waisted trousers along the way.

SS: If such a thing exists can you describe your typical day.
MM: Unfortunately there is not a typical day... we have a very small team, so we have to wear many hats each day, designers, creatives, sales... the list goes on.

SS: How did it feel to show your AW09 collection at the extended Menswear afternoon at LFW? Did you get a chance to see any of the shows other shows? Who did you enjoy most?
MM: We were honoured to be asked to be part of the day. There has been and still is so much menswear talent in London, this showcase is something that has been desperately needed for a while. We showed back to back with our good friend Tim Soar and his collection was quite amazing.

SS: The store has been something of a fashion mecca for fresh talent, like Bernhard Willhelm, Carola Euler and Damir Doma. Who are your favourite emerging designers? How do you find the labels and new talent that you stock?
MM: We are lucky enough that the store has gained a reputation for launching new designers, so we don't have to do as much research as most come to us now. New talent's are Natascha Stolle for womenswear and Peter Perret for menswear.

SS: How do you see the bstore brand developing over the next couple of years?
MM: Our intention is to continue growing the brand in both size and distribution. In the future we hope this will mean we will be able to open corners in other stores with both our brand and brand collaborations. We have already collaborated with a milliner, bag designer, jeweller, so to continue this would be great.

Playing in the fields, two looks from b paper.

SS: What item of clothing (if any) do you wish that more men wore?
MM: High waisted trousers, they add a bit of elegance

SS: How would you describe your own personal style?
MM: Modern

SS: If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?
MM: The beat generation

SS: Finally, what are you favourite pieces currently available from bstore?
MM: bstore tweed raglan sleeve mac, heavy soled b store brogue, Tim Soar high waist two pleat dogtooth trouser, Peter Jensen oversized tweed blazer.

Two of our favourite bStore Aw09 look book shots

Ordinarily we end our 'Speaks to' features with a collection of our interviewees recommendations but there was no need with Matthew because bstore have their own, great London guide online. Their guide features tips from the likes of Carola Euler, Tim Soar and Peter Jenson and is well worth a read.

5 comments: said...

fantastic read!
i've not been to bstore myself, i sure do live in caves! i need to pop by one of these days...

Anonymous said...

Fantastic read. Brand b just gets better and better.

Unknown said...

Your interview-series, much like b Store, just keeps getting better.


Anonymous said...

fantastic read!!!!
very good looking at this i want to go to bstore..

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Keith said...

Great interview. I really enjoyed reading this.


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