Welcome to our brand new series of articles on retailers that are operating in ways that provide some interesting and valuable lessons to the wider industry.
Name: 5 Carlos Place
Location: Heart of Mayfair, London W1
In a nutshell: MATCHESFASHION.COM is trying to reinvent what ‘shopping’ might mean for the Insta generation who define a successful shopping trip as a curated and novel retail experience within a like-minded community rather than staggering home with lots of bags of shopping.
Just off Mount Street in the heart of Mayfair is 5 Carlos Place – a five-storey multifunction house cum shop cum dining space cum retail theatre from online fashion brand MATCHESFASHION.COM It is the coming together of several different trajectories from the retailer, one of these was its history of residencies often coinciding with fashion weeks in global capitals.
Last year these happened, for example, in Los Angeles and Paris and New York and featured variously Zandra Rhodes in conversation, private dinners, wellness studios and sustainability workshops. And it became obvious that where customers might only visit a conventional shop once, they will return again and again to experience cultural content around the central core of fashion and the more they engage ultimately the more they will purchase.
Management filed that one away for later. As Chief Brand Officer Jess Christie notes “nowadays you have to engage with the customer across multiple touchpoints both digital and physical plus people enjoy engaging with experiences beyond the traditional retail format”.
Meanwhile back in the UK, MATCHESFASHION.COM already had a private shopping townhouse in Marylebone but deciding that their ambitions had outgrown the townhouse, scouted around for a new and larger space and lighted upon 5 Carlos Place.
Also realising that their community would need something more than the typical retail site to fully realise its potential they engaged fully with the listed building’s renovation from offices to elegant showroom and art space incorporating public and private spaces. All of MATCHESFASHION.COM different teams have been involved, according to Christie.
“This is truly the result of collaboration across all business functions with all teams aligned. Tech, buying, social, events, private shopping, content all continue to support the evolution of the eventing programme within 5 Carlos Place and scale this via content streams globally.”
It’s not especially obvious that 5 Carlos Place is a shop from the outside or that the public can just wander in but both of those are true. The first two floors are the public retail spaces and are constantly changing to showcase different designers – the average turnaround is about two weeks. On Retail insider’s visit there was a dartboard on the wall, left over from a recent event where darts legend Bobby George had attended a games evening/pub quiz at the Hillier Bartley installation. Did we mention it’s eclectic? As Jess Christie points out “it’s all about working with our partners in innovative and engaging ways”.
In just its first two months of operation 5 Carlos Place had already hosted 43 events beginning with a full Prada store takeover where a 100-piece capsule wardrobe launched which was available nowhere else. The exclusivity is a very important part of the proposal at 5 Carlos Place and many collections which appear there can only be bought in-house, all of which contributes to the feeling that you are entering a members’ club which hosts events and happens to also have things you can buy in it instead of a shop.
At the time of our visit the second floor was laid out as a large bedroom (everything including the bed being shoppable) where celebrities such as Paloma Faith and Princess Julia had been interviewed in a Paula Yates throwback homage – 390 people were in the house that night. Gilbert and George arrived soon after.
And private events are not just restricted to the first two floors as the loft space can also host intimate supper clubs with guest chefs and influential speakers. Ruth Rogers has cooked there already for example. Christie feels that MATCHESFASHION.COM is known very much for “showcasing new design talent, setting out trends, journalists always ask us “What’s new?” and the constant programme of events is a reflection of the fact that we see our relationship with brands and designers as a true partnership.”
However, let’s not forget that MATCHESFASHION.COM is ultimately attempting to sell clothes, however lofty its cultural ambitions, and the private shopping suites are where some serious purchasing happens. The fact that they are usually booked out all day for one to one stylings gives an indication of how popular this service is with the international travelling community who comprise the brand’s core customer base. And it is here that the very high-tech spec of the house really begins to show.
Order it now, wear it in 90 minutes is the strapline allowing customers to browse the full collection, order items of interest to be transported over, go upstairs and have lunch, come back down and begin trying it all on.
Christie says: “Carlos Place is a complete marriage. The digital is reflected in the physical and vice versa.” Also worthy of mention on this floor – the media suite which creates podcasts of the events and broadcasts them to an expectant world. Inevitably she adds that “the dwell time on MATCHESFASHION.COM is longer if the content is curated”.
A write up of Carlos Place would not be complete, however, without mention of the already legendary vending machine. This sits on the landing of the second floor and features small objects from featured designers which are purchasable via a token (cost £8). Best seller so far the pack of 4 x mini Prada highlighters. It’s clever because, rather like the tiny tins of tea at Fortnum & Mason, it’s an entry point that most visitors can get behind.
Clearly not everything MATCHESFASHION.COM is doing in Carlos Place is either practical or necessary for every high street retailer to emulate but the key messages of creating a content story for your community, that the intimate story can be replicated across the world through social media and that tech does not have to be loud and in your face are ones that can definitely resonate throughout retail.