Johnstons of Elgin commissioned Checkland Kindleysides to create a new home for the brand in London. Historically, determined customers had to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to see their full collections at their mills in Scotland. Their new flagship store on New Bond Street provides them with a showcase to present a selection of their beautiful products which their craftsmen and women have been perfecting at their mill in Elgin for the last 218 years.
Located at 77 New Bond Street the five storey building will house retailing spaces on the ground and lower ground levels, while wholesale and showroom areas will occupy the upper levels.
As a manufacturer of knitted and woven cashmere and fine woollens, from fibre to the finished product for over 200 years, the craft and spirit of Johnstons of Elgin’s textiles provided the inspiration for our concept; this has been celebrated through a contemporary store design which draws on their provenance and heritage of the brand and its positioning as a label that presents customers with traditional timeless pieces with a twist.
In designing the store we looked at the process of how the cloth is made, and abstracted this idea to inform the interior architecture of the space, creating links back to the mill and the company’s Scottish heritage, with elements of the design and visual merchandising subtly referencing Johnstons of Elgin manufacturing process as well as communicating their reputation for producing the finest cashmere.
We opened up the storefront to provide a dramatic window where brand and product stories can be told, and as the store opens the display features cashmere ‘snow’ with knitwear presented on gift-wrapped display plinths, set in front of a ‘Scottish Highland’ voile backdrop. The shopfront itself is framed with a textured microcement surround, inspired by the texture of the Scottish landscape and finished in a sharp contemporary way. Whilst Johnstons of Elgin’s logo is debossed into the fascia, giving it a feeling of authenticity and permanence.
Visitors enter 77 New Bond Street via a small vestibule, which creates a welcoming and homely feel. Together the tiled mosaic floor and the walls lined with archive photos of the factory and early fashion shoots start to tell the brand’s story. Doors from the vestibule lead trade customers to showrooms on the upper floors, whilst to the right a door opens onto the ground floor of the store which is dedicated to Johnstons of Elgin’s women’s accessories and knitwear collections.
A herringbone-patterned runner, especially designed and woven for the concept runs the full twelve metre length of the store, as if has just come straight off the loom. Providing a central stage for the presentation of accessories, it then flows through to the front of the store dropping down through an aperture in the floor by the window, allowing a clear view into the basement, letting customers see that there is more to be discovered downstairs.
The tables on which the accessories collections are presented, feature inclusions of recycled glass, a contemporary nod to Highland granite and the home of Johnstons of Elgin. Further accessories are placed on pristine white plinths, with cashmere and vicuna scarves raised above the tables to articulate the texture and flow of the softly draped fabric which, similar to the runner, flow through an aperture into the space below.
Around the perimeter of the store, the exposed whitewashed brickwork and traditional white panelling provide contrasting textures, which are offset by the colour and luxurious quality of their cashmere. Referencing the mill, white ‘threads’ hang down from the perimeter like the warp threads on the loom to create the merchandising fixtures. In conjunction with these threads we utilised a variety of merchandising techniques for the different ranges, each of which is illuminated to emphasise the nap and tactility of the fabric with scarves presented on individual hanging hoops and knitwear hung alongside, allowing each item space to breathe.
Johnstons of Elgin’s ‘classics’ collection can be seen further down the store; the striking colour blocking presents garments in different sizes with each style presented on an angled plinth. An adjacent folding table with and inlaid brass tape-measure, doubles up as an inspection table with a magnifying lamp allowing customers to examine the quality and knit of the garments, just as is done at the mill.
Fitting rooms on the left hand side of the store, have been kept purposely, clean white and simple, complemented with landscape imagery of the Highlands from seasonal photo-shoots.
At the back of the store a beautifully crafted jacquard woven cashmere hanging, provides a fitting backdrop to the cash-desk. The hanging features Johnstons of Elgin monogram woven in muted grey/blue tones in the softest of cashmeres and is set against walls of the brand’s deep navy blue. Like the storefront the cash-desk is finished in the textural microcement in Johnstons of Elgins’ blue, edged with brass to give a contemporary yet traditional feel.
A pistachio bonsai tree takes pride of place on the cash desk, a seemingly ambiguous link to the brand, yet one at its very heart, as in around 1890 a pistachio that, smuggled its way half way across the world in a hessian bag full of cashmere, seeded itself and grew into tree alongside the mill in Elgin.
Throughout the store found objects, artefacts and images take you on a journey through the manufacturing heritage of Johnstons of Elgin. With everything from photos of the mill to cones of cashmere, and explanations of the hand(made) and machine processes from dying to blending, carding to spinning and weaving, and a teasel display in a showcase telling customers how this plant, which has been used for centuries, brushes over the surface of the surface of the fabric, aligning the cashmere fibres to produce the unique distinctive ripple finish on Johnstons of Elgin cashmere.
Playful ‘pins and thread’ signage directs customers to ‘mens’ on the lower ground floor, on the way down, a gallery on the stairway features more photos and items which look back at Johnstons of Elgin’s heritage. The stair spindles also echo the loom threads used in the merchandising upstairs.
To the fore of the space the runner from the ground floor drops down through the aperture, where it is wrapped around a contemporary take of a traditional cast iron loom beam – used in the factory to take up the woven fabric, here it creates tension on the runner to provide a further display of Johnston of Elgins’ craftsmanship. On the lower ground floor menswear is displayed similarly to womens collections, with knitwear and accessories presented on a tiered table and on the ‘thread’ perimeter merchandising, with subtle changes in the materials palette in this space providing a more masculine feel.
Nestled in a relaxed space at the back store, alongside the men’s fitting rooms, is a selection of Johnston of Elgin’s home interiors range with sumptuous cashmere throws, cushions and upholstered furniture and furnishing fabrics hung on cast iron reclaimed antler hooks inspired by the Scottish Highland inhabitants.
The lower ground floor also provides a showcase for the label’s cloth story; swatch samples line the walls and a mannequin dressed in a jacket in an estate tweed, signposting Johnstons of Elgin as a holder of the Royal Warrant (by Appointment to the Prince of Wales), an honour which was bestowed to the company in 2013. This space also showcases some of their extensive home range with a beautiful mixture of traditional and contemporary Scottish fabrics.
This store concept takes the essence of a quote from Johnstons of Elgin that reflects the emotional heart of the brand “No matter how far we journey, our place will always be in Scotland” – and these words were considered in every element of the design and choice of materials for the store; demonstrating their pride in their collections being designed and ‘Made in Scotland’ from fibre to the finished garment. It also shows Johnstons of Elgin as a brand that relishes its heritage and has the utmost respect for traditional manufacturing and processes, but one that embraces future things that enhance what they do.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating the opening of our first London store. The store brings the brand to life in a new and exciting way which Checkland Kindleysides have executed extremely well. We engaged with Checkland Kindleysides as we felt, from their experience, they were best suited to convey our manufacturing story in Elgin and Hawick to a retail customer experience in London. We look forward to welcoming our customers to New Bond Street” George McNeil, Managing Director Retail, Johnstons of Elgin.
The 140m² store is now open at 77 New Bond Street, London W1S 1RY
Design: Checkland Kindleysides
About Checkland Kindleysides
Founded in 1979, we are one of the largest design consultancies within the UK. Our offer spans a broad range of design disciplines including graphic communication, identity, retail, interior and digital design. We work with national and international brands across a diverse range of market sectors.
Clients include: ASDA, Beats by Dr Dre, Barclays, Belstaff, Bentley Motors, Converse, Diageo, Hunter, Fitness First, Joseph Cheaney, Nike, Levi’s, Sony PlayStation, New Look, Nixon, Pizza Hut, The National Lottery, The British Library, Timberland, Uniqlo, Virgin Atlantic and Wrangler.
About Johnstons of Elgin
Johnstons of Elgin has over two centuries of expertise in the production of cashmere and fine woollens. From its two sites in Elgin and Hawick in Scotland, the company designs and manufactures the highest quality knitwear, accessories and cloth. With a strong focus on its Scottish heritage and craftsmanship, Johnstons of Elgin strives for excellence in design and innovation in technique. To date the company employs over 900 people.