24 Apr 2024
Style in the City: Concept Stores
Clothing Fashion & Beauty

Style in the City: Concept Stores

If you live in Stockholm, chances are you’ve stumbled into a large room with minimal furniture, dim lighting and somberly dressed mannequins. YLC’s Victoria Hussey explains why these concept stores do so much more than sell clothes.

TC 4Photo: The Casbah

A new breed of store has been stealthily making its mark on Stockholm in recent years. Concept stores, taking their lead from their acclaimed counterparts in Milan, London and Paris, are as much about offering an entirely new shopping experience as they are about the items they sell.

The idea isn’t a new one; concept stores originated in the seventies and eighties. Every last fleck of paint was considered and reconsidered when Ralph Lauren launched his flagship store in New York in 1984. Curator, Carla Sozzani, designed 10 Corso Como in the early nineties and began cross-selling art, fashion, music, design and cuisine in hidden spaces that includes a café, gallery and minute hotel (consisting of a mere three rooms); transforming it into much more than just a store that sells clothes.

Until recently, Stockholm was devoid of its own high-end, high-concept boutiques. Hoping to replicate the idea of the alternative shopping experience is hip fashion go-to, The Casbah. With four stores in the city already, The Casbah focuses on showcasing new design talent in a calm, breathable and intriguing space.

“We sell a lot of different, small designers so it feels almost like a market-place.” Sales assistant, Elvis, tells YLC.

He’s right. It’s possible to walk around The Casbah – free of walls or departments and with its avenues of black rails and monochromatic interior  – without knowing which designer’s work you’re admiring; much like you would at a market. This notion of the exotic is echoed in the luxurious, long, velvet curtains with traditional tie-backs that cover the fitting rooms adjacent to comfy leather chairs. Books sit half-read on a coffee table; there’s no need to feel rushed at The Casbah.

Elsewhere, items are not so much displayed but curated. There is a  feel of a fashion exhibition about the store; as if each garment were a work of art. There are places to perch and contemplate, much like in a gallery or a museum. In another part of the store, thick, shiny white steps and a big, cartoonish sign reading The Casbah provide a display vitrine for a globe, a sweater, a single shoe, a magazine. Everything has been thought out, conceptualised.

In fact, The Casbah has three concepts: Edge, Liberty and Core, all with individual values and aesthetics evident in the store layout and design. At its heart is the choice of young, fresh design.

“We’re all about new designers. Most are Scandinavian; we have Turnover from The Netherlands, which is like the Dutch Acne, and Karen by Simonsen. We want these new brands, we’re different.” he added.

In fact, The Casbah is the place that gets to sell the covetable collection of The Swedish Fashion Council’s yearly Rookies winner. This year’s winner, Mes Dames, designed by Lisa Wikander may not yet be in stores just yet, but 2012’s Lobra is.

“We’re changing all of our stores in Stockholm this month – we’re moving to a more rustic, messy look. It will look quite damp, natural,” Head of Visual Merchandising for The Casbah, Johan Vedin Bergman told YLC. “September is an important month for all retailers and it’s important everything looks just right.”

Even now, as the stores are going through a seasonal redecoration and are littered with dust sheets, sand paper and ladders – the kind of décor that wouldn’t be out of place in a concept store. Scruffy, old furniture and out-of-place materials are perfect to provide that most covetable of products: customer experience.

“It gets a reaction, people think, “wow” I want to shop here. It’s fun,” Urban Outfitters sales assistant, Juliet Vergara told YLC.

Urban Outfitters in Biblioteksgatan is the only one of its kind in Sweden. The store took over the Röda Kvarn (Moulin Rouge or red windmill) in 2006.  The converted cinema provided the all-American brand with a super-sized shell in which to house a multitude of trendy, young brands underneath dramatically tall ceilings and mesmeric, elephant-sized chandeliers.

“The people that choose where to open the next Urban Outfitters are really picky, they go out looking for places they know will have an impact,” Urban Outfitters representative, Carolina Dolata explained. “Things are more expensive here but it’s a little bit of luxury on the high-street. We sell smaller Swedish designers and you can get the whole outfit here – shoes, necklace, earrings – in one trip,” she added.

Mood, in the centre of the city, has taken the concept experience and moved it onto three floors. Exclusive fashion, home and accessory brands mingle with plush eateries under atmospheric lighting. The individual wide open shop doors and relaxed seating areas sporadically placed throughout the building as well as the accompanying birdsong in the background portray an outdoor space, while quirky features, such as wrought iron sign-posts, add to the traditional meets modern theme.

You see a concept store is just that: a concept. They don’t just sell clothes, they exhibit an entire mood. So the next time you stroll into one of these gems, look around and appreciate the lengths the designers have gone to to make you feel a certain way. I bet shopping has never been so thought-provoking, huh?


Victoria Hussey

A self-confessed country-girl, Victoria studied English literature and fashion writing in the UK and Milan and then swapped English village life for city living in Stockholm in April 2013. She has spent the last five months swotting up on Swedish fashion and exploring her favourite part of Sweden; its national parks. Victoria enjoys travelling to far-off lands, alternative music and wishes someone would invent some kind of socially-acceptable breakfast ice-cream.

Follow Victoria and Your Living City on Twitter!


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