Despite the convenience of online shopping, a new generation of designers, buyers and entrepreneurs are reaffirming the irreplaceable charms of in-person retail. Here are five new outlets that we admire.
The joys of going shopping are undisputed: nothing beats the experience of walking into a physical space, taking in its interiors and signature scent, and making a fresh discovery or striking up conversations with fellow customers and staff. That’s why brands have continued to invest deeply in expanding their retail networks, tailoring outlets to their locations and offering bespoke services for loyal clients. This winter, for example, much-loved brands such as Visvim and Paris-based L/Uniform have invested in new outposts in Tokyo to cater to locals’ and visitors’ growing appetite for well-designed shops.
The multi-brand boutique is also back on the rise, thanks to creative retailers with the canny ability to scour the market and curate best-in-class collections. Madrid’s Sportivo and Beige Habilleur in Paris are just two examples of fast-growing multi-brand shops; both have been expanding their businesses and celebrating new openings in their hometowns this winter. An international outpost is in the works for Beige Habilleur too. In these pages, monocle rounds up some of the best new openings. Happy shopping.
Founded by Jeanne Signoles in 2014, French bag label L/Uniform now offers a collection of canvas and leather styles in more than 100 variations. Japan is its biggest market, so expanding its footprint here was a priority. The brand’s new shop in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district is its second flagship shop in the country.
Wanting it to feel like a Japanese house from a French perspective, Signoles called on Masamichi Katayama and his studio, Wonderwall. “I put myself in the mindset of a French architect who likes the work of Junzo Yoshimura,” says Katayama. He installed paper lanterns by Isamu Noguchi and pieces including armchairs by George Nakashima and Katsuo Matsumura; a backlit paper screen changes brightness throughout the day. “Materials such as brick tiles combine with chevron-pattern flooring, a European-style desk area and more to create a mix of Japanese and Western.”
Bags remain at the heart of the brand but the shop’s line-up also includes a folding stool with a canvas seat, cushions and dog leads. Every bag has a number and most items can be personalised with initials. A suitcase called No 40 combines canvas with Spanish calf leather. Travel has never looked so chic.
It has been more than 90 years since Norwegian adventurer Jørgen Jørgensen founded outerwear label Norrøna but the demand for its durable winter apparel remains strong. Four generations later, Jørgensen’s great-grandson, who bears the same name, is leading the business into the next chapter with the opening of Norrøna House, a new multi-purpose hub featuring an indoor-climbing gym, a development factory, repair centre and Nordic restaurant. Here, he tells monocle about the ambitious venture.
What is the concept for Norrøna House?
We wanted to create a hub for our customers where they can find inspiration, get their gear fixed and meet each other. The experience needs to be different from what you can find online. The building is a paper mill from 1862 with a waterfall outside where freshwater salmon swim. It’s a green area but also close to the centre of Oslo. It’s great to be able to design products in the same place where we can meet our customers. We want to combine this affinity for nature and good design because many consumers now wear our pieces in urban environments too.
Tell us about the design of the space.
All of the shop’s fixtures, including smaller details such as the hangers and mannequins, are made in-house and have been tailored to fit our brand identity.
What else is the company focusing on?
Norrøna has its own travel agency, which is in the process of building lodges north of the Arctic Circle. These are remote locations in fantastic nature reserves that offer all kinds of outdoor activities. At Norrøna, we don’t just provide the gear but also the experiences that it enables.
Sportivo has been a go-to destination for Madrid’s best-dressed men for more than 20 years. As its reputation has grown, so too has the list of labels that it stocks, from UK brand Mackintosh to Scandinavian names such as Norse Projects. Keen to keep expanding its offer without overcrowding the original shop on Conde Duque, founder Goyo Otero started looking for a second location. Last autumn, Sportivo opened a shop in a former palazzo dating back to 1907 on the nearby Calle Limón. The ground-floor space had long been empty.
“It was used as a motorcycle-repair shop,” says Otero, who enlisted Mayice Studio to refurbish the interiors. The design team stripped back the space, keeping its exposed plaster walls and terrazzo flooring and adding fresh white paint to its ornate Doric columns. The original light fixtures have been fixed up and towering windows flood the shop with natural light. Clothes are hung from metal rails or arranged on tempered-glass sheets strung by wires from the ceiling. The design was kept minimal to ensure that nothing distracts from the clothes.
“This space is for the higher-end designers that we stock,” says Sportivo buyer Nacho López, referring to collections by the likes of Lemaire and Dries Van Noten, as well as emerging brands such as US-based And Austin. There are plans to add more homeware and books to the shop’s offering too. “We’re happy to be starting a new chapter,” says López.
Such is the popularity of Hiroki Nakamura’s Tokyo-based label Visvim that first-day customers at its latest opening in Ginza were drawn from a lottery. Housed in a 90-year-old, three-storey building, the shop combines Nakamura’s love of Americana and Japanese craft, hence the vintage map of the city on the wall and the custom carpet from the US that lines its vip room.
Trends are largely irrelevant for Nakamura, who returns to his core designs season after season. A new denim jacket, featuring a corduroy collar, has been given a dorozome mud-dye treatment in Kagoshima, while a pair of striped wool trousers was inspired by traditional Japanese silhouettes. You’ll also find Visvim’s popular hand-sewn Brigadier boots and sweaters hand-knitted in Tohoku. “It’s not just about preserving old things but enhancing them,” says Nakamura. “It’s great to pass on history in this way.”
“You will always need a good blazer or a tweed jacket,” says Basile Khadiry, co-owner of Beige Habilleur, a Parisian menswear boutique that is celebrated for its wide-ranging collection of what he calls “modern classics”. Khadiry and his partner, Jean-Baptiste Ménétrier, launched the business as an online retailer in 2015, before opening a showroom in the French capital’s 16th arrondissement that quickly evolved into a boutique.
The duo initially wanted to help revive what had become a dull residential neighbourhood but, in late 2023, they seized the opportunity to move to a more central location. The new shop is on the corner of Rue Bonaparte, a short amble from the bustle of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter. As a result, more curious passers-by wander in. Meanwhile, many of the locals have already become regulars.
Artistic director Pierre-Alexis Guinet and architecture studio Corto-Corto designed the space to evoke a walk-in wardrobe. Its brown velvet carpet makes you want to kick off your shoes, while the centre of the shop features mirror cabinets, a banquette and display cases for leather accessories. “The idea was to imagine what a traditional menswear boutique would look like today,” says Khadiry.
The answer to this is also reflected in the clothes hanging on the boutique’s steel racks: think relaxed tailoring, chunky knitwear and rubber sneakers. Khadiry, who previously worked at luxury businesses including Louis Vuitton and Chalhoub Group, tells monocle that he is committed to finding “the best item in each category”. That includes plenty of Japanese brands, from coats by Cohérance to shirts by Haversack, and warm knitted jumpers by Scottish brand Jamieson’s, as well as wool jackets by South Tyrolean brand Rier. When they can’t find exactly what they are looking for, Khadiry works directly with brands to create their own in-house designs, including a line of shirts made with Neapolitan tailor Salvatore Piccolo.
Khadiry is also part of the team behind independent print magazine L’Étiquette, alongside his friend Gauthier Borsarello, who is the creative director of Parisian label Fursac. Borsarello will soon be selling pieces from his extensive vintage collection in the new shop. “The items will rotate every two weeks,” says Khadiry. “We are always trying to find a balance between the old and the modern, and the cool and the traditional.”