Friday, 7 September 2012

A visit to... Other

"It has a different feeling, there is a definite sense of evolution with a great deal more visual stimulation but ultimately, we have returned to our fundamental ideals" explains Matthew Murphy as he sits basking in both the Hackney August sunshine and the sheer excitement of a new retail beginning. Last week the mecca for contemporary design that was b Store closed its doors for the final time and after a weekend of transformation, Other was born. Retail reincarnation was performed so fast that thankfully there was no time to weep on a lost love but plenty to admire from the familiar yet excitingly and enticingly different venture that stood in its place. 

Back in June during London Collections: Men, surprised whispers of the demise of b, both as a brand and as a store (but the shoe line lives on), began to reverberate throughout each space leaving a bewildered London menswear industry at various stages of grief. From denial to acceptance and hope, we felt it all. Over the last ten years Murphy along with fellow founder Kirk Beattie and the rest of the talented b family built one of the most pioneering fashion retail spots in London and cultivated a hugely successful own brand collection and sell out retail and wholesale collaborations. As it celebrated it's tenth anniversary last year it appeared at the peak of its remarkable trajectory. However, it was during this ascent that b store grew and developed into something quite different from the original vision. So, after a decade on that particular project the team felt that the time was right to move on. From the ashes of b rises Other. It marks a refocus on the ideals and fundamentals that made b so well loved in the first place and a return to what Murphy and Beattie love most, shopkeeping. Matthew Murphy explains...

"To begin with we weren't one hundred percent sure on how to go forward. As news began to spread about the situation the support we received was quite ridiculous. We knew that the real heart of the b brand has always been the shop. For us, retail is the real passion. My real love is the store and as other areas of the brand grew, I would spend less and less time there. It is all too easy to lose your vision and focus and we ended up working harder for other stores than we did for our own. Despite the forward momentum, when we took the time out to evaluate, there was an element of craziness to it all and we struggled with it. For us, we just didn't have the time or space in the shop for the things that inspired us and the projects that we loved the most. The signature of b store was always that it was a platform for young creative minds and talents, not just fashion designers but artists and craftsmen. There's always been a sense of family. We looked at opportunities of keeping the store going on the basis of what b store was originally. We found that there was and we took them. 

b's move to Kingly Street had been a phenomenal success so we were keen to stay in this location. It was hard leaving Savile Row after so many years because it felt like our home but what we didn't realise was that so many people just didn't cross the road, consumers that knew the brand but just wouldn't venture to Mayfair. There's a constant foot flow along Kingly Street and there's a constant energy - people would come in and want to work with us. We were beginning to generate a new network. Ultimately, we realised that we are shopkeepers and we can create an identity and offer something that other people don't, we are proud to take those risks. That's what we wanted to return to."

It is so refreshing to hear someone describe themselves as a shopkeeper. Britain used to be described as 'a nation of shopkeepers.' Whether it was the eighteenth century economist Adam Smith or Napoleon who described this group of islands as such matters little, what does matter is that this nation has lost its retail heart but individuals likes Beattie and Murphy are providing much needed resuscitation. Supporting new or unknown design talent is key to both Murphy and Beattie. During the anniversary celebrations of last year, designer  Roksanda Ilinic uttered, "They were and still are a laboratory for creative design and spirit," and this could not be more true today. The new beginning with Other enables them to offer a platform and showcase for this. 

"The mix of designers for this first season will be familiar but we do have some new ones, a French brand called Etudes, Christophe Lemaire x Beanpole, a collaboration with T&F Slack, and we've also decided to work with someone on a larger scale and so bought MM6 women's which is absolutely great this season," explains Murphy. From the moment that Other first opened its door, the rails are lined with labels that are either exclusive to the store or hard to find items and your new favourite designer whilst the walls and windows will become a gallery for  photography, sculpture, painting and illustration. Like b, other is a store that offers much more than just fashion. There is the same excitement that bubbled as we entered b Store but for a new time, in a new environment. There is the same opportunity to discover a new talent, an exhibition, a magazine or even just a moment when you talk to either Murphy, Beattie or (Kuni) Awai and leave with something new, ever inspired. From the moment you enter the store, you’re  welcomed as part of the family. It’s service and attention to  detail, without fuss or pretension is what makes  your trip to Other unlike anywhere else.

Now, I could happily wax lyrical about the store but the best way to get a feel of the place is to explore it. Other is a store that affords discoveries at every turn and below are just a few of the items that caught my wanting eye...

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Just a few of the things that caught my eye.

As the candle burns on a new beginning and my wallet smarts from my failure to resist the temptation of new season Christophe Lemaire, Stephan Schneider and Our Legacy, we shouldn't forget the launch of the Other label which echoes the launch of b clothing. The first collection of b clothing was called 'Missing Pieces', it provided the items that the pair felt were missing from the store and similarly, the British made Other line offers to help fill the gaps in every man and woman’s wardrobe. Perfectly executed staples that complete looks and compliment the store's buy. I'll allow Matthew Murphy to explain before I offer up a few of my favourite pairings as shown on Other's web store...

"We realised that we needed a label that could offer the staples and basics that could be produced under our own name that complemented our buy. Having your own brand allows you to take more risks elsewhere. So, Other was born. We already made the decision to continue to buy b shoes and the Other collection finishes everything off. A customer would come in and fall in love with say, a Bernhard Willhelm sweatshirt and then ask if we had a pair of black jeans to go with it and initially we didn't. The idea was for our own brand to fill in any of the gaps from our buy. At this stage I'm not sure how often Other products will drop but it certainly won't be as seasonal, we have control. The control element is one of the main reasons that it is all UK made. We spent time sourcing makers, from an amazing shirtmaker in Twickenham who works with Turnbull & Asser and who specialises in pyjamas, a guy in South East London who is helping us produce our womenswear and men's outerwear made by just three women seamstresses, it is very refreshing. The great thing is we have complete control. From a drawing right through to the shop floor where we can talk with real passion. The brand will only be available in store and online."

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From Our Legacy to Stephan Schneider and Raimund Berthold to Other, a complete wardrobe for Autumn/Winter 12 is offered.

This is just the beginning of Other. I am reminded of the following Jack London quote; "I did not begin when I was born, nor when I was conceived. I have been growing, developing, through incalculable myriads of millenniums. All my previous selves have their voices, echoes, promptings in me. Oh, incalculable times again shall I be born." Familiar yet different, Other builds and learns from the shared experiences of b Store to create something new. Retail reincarnation. As I began this post with an excited Matthew Murphy, it is only fitting to leave you with him looking to the future...

"In terms of the future, we will continue to grow online, work with key partners but we'll also make a lot more effort to get out and discover emerging design talent and towards the end of next year, we will look to add another space. It will become Other Space and will be used for an evolving mix of installations, pop ups and exhibitions. There's plenty to keep us busy and it's exciting but to be honest, I'm looking forward to returning to the shop floor most. Other is a shop first and we're proud of that."  

4 comments:

BougieHippie said...

Not a fan of the cuts on the pants but the outerwear and shirt are really nice.

Oli said...

Beautiful store and great post. I had no idea b Store closed but this new thing looks even better.

Jason said...

This looks like a really classy shop. Is this a chain menswear store?

Mat said...

shame about the closure but Other looks like one of thee greatest shops going :)

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