London’s retail scene in the last year, has seen a surge in concept-driven, carefully curated stores—brick-and-mortar and online alike. The city’s Layers, a stunningly chic hub for niche and avant-garde designers, encapsulates the city’s progressive edge: international, artisanal and future-conscious. JC Report chatted with Layers’ Keven McDermott, the store’s buyer and creative director, as well as Michael R. Takkou, who leads its visual and creative marketing, about their most successful labels, finding a home in London’s retail landscape and the balance between Layers’ in-store and online experience.
JC Report: What makes Layers distinct from other London retailers?
Keven McDermott: Layers is a self-distinguishing entity in many ways—from the designers we carry, to the resulting store-aesthetic they have inspired us to create. Our store is unavoidably gallery-esque, as it is essential to present such carefully crafted garments in an artistic light. What sets us apart is the warmth our space provides to a collection of labels that are consistently associated with cold, dark, morbid humors. We’ve created a clean, open, well-lit and welcoming environment whose infinity rail-system provides a sense of continuity and flow both echoing the cut and motion of many of our garments, while contrasting the common misassumption to do with their attitude.
KD: There is a breadth of people from all walks of creative and commercial life that are drawn to the labels we carry. People working in the fashion industry itself (designers, stylists, photographers, publishers, editors, writers, bloggers and models) to people working in seemingly unrelated fields such as actors, advertisers, city workers and financial advisors. When you carry brands whose aesthetic isn’t driven by some main-market effort to satiate popular trends, your client base is built of people who simply appreciate beautiful, one-of-a-kind garments.
JCR: What are your best-selling brands?
KD: Considering we had opened quite late in the season, we have had a fantastic reaction. All our brands have performed exceptionally well across the board. Our line up of men’s Japanese labels—such as Devoa, Julius and The Viridi-Anne—have performed incredibly well, as have two young American labels that are exclusive to us in the UK: Odyn Vovk, who is based in LA, and InAisce, who is New York-based. Fantastic performers for our womenswear floor have been Forme D’Expression, Lost & Found, MA+, Guidi, Damir Doma and a young label from Torino in Italy called Serien Umerica.
KD: Seems sound enough. We’re sandwiched between two seminal design houses in an area that has more foot traffic than anywhere else in London. We are no more (or less) niche than Yohji Yamamoto, or even Issey Miyake, both of whom we share a sartorial street corner with. The two aspects of fashion that we cherish and champion—the avant-garde and the artisanal—are echoed by our design neighbors on Conduit Street and the world famous bespoke tailoring of Saville Row to our south. We had no interest in tucking ourselves away in a difficult to find dystopian location, where only those who already knew who we were and what we sold could find us. We are trying to create an uncharacteristically warm environment where any Londoner can appreciate the unsung work of the designers we support, and there is no better canvas for such an effort than central London.
JCR: Why is this an ideal time to launch Layers?
KD: London’s retail fashion scene has been sitting stagnant for a frustratingly long period of time. We feel as though we are simply filling a gap—a gap whose existence is acknowledged and felt by the already existing fans of the lines we carry, and even by our friends and associates working in the London retail scene. Our store’s direction isn’t anything that doesn’t already successfully exist and thrive in New York, Paris or Tokyo. Now Londoners have somewhere they can go to experience a culture, which has long been received with excitement in the fashion capitals of the world.
Michael R Takkou: We worked closely with our web designer to make sure every aspect of the website echoes and/or reflects the aesthetic, attitude and energy of our brick-and-mortar space. This is achieved through our signature color palettes, which you find in the store design and the web design. We pride ourselves on offering the same high level of personal service online as well as in-store. We have a team of incredibly knowledgeable and passionate people who aim to create a bespoke shopping experience for all our customers.
JCR: Tell us about the curatorial initiatives to cultivate young talent?
MRT: London is a city full of creative talents, many of whom are overlooked. It is one of our aims to promote young artists, by offering them a platform on which to showcase their work—both on our website, and in the store itself. We have a section on the website called “Layers Presents” which is where we shall have biographies and images of the young creatives and their work. We plan to hold regular events for the young talent that we find, to give them the exposure that we feel they deserve. We are always searching for young designers, silversmiths, artists, videographers and musicians, who we feel connect with our aesthetic and vision. We swill also be doing collaborative work with the young talent that we source. The creative young talents and the Layers creative team work together to create a new collaborative product, which will be exclusively available in store and online.