Guest post: Jigsaw’s Duke Street Emporium is a 3D shopping experience

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Jigsaw has opened a mini department store dedicated to what it calls ‘social shopping’, putting the 3D back into retail. DRG contributor ALISON BISHOP takes a tour with CEO Peter Ruis

“Retail brands have the authenticity to create something unexpected, at Jigsaw we like shops to be slightly off-pitch,” CEO Peter Ruis told me at the launch for Jigsaw’s Duke Street Emporium in Mayfair.

The Emporium name comes from the idea that Jigsaw’s new multi-label, multi-concept two-floor store is like a journey of discovery. “It’s a bit of fun, it’s a bit of curating, the rooms are like catacombs of discovery,” says Ruis. “You can travel through the store finding new products and displays, it’s intended to be very fluid and you can spend as much time as you like going from room to room. They are quite small and merchandise is not overloaded so you can always find things to be inspired,” he says.

The new store combines Jigsaw’s own label products – across the newly revamped womenswear, menswear and kidswear lines – with a café by artisan foodies and coffee experts Fernandez & Wells. And just when you thought that was plenty to be getting on with, in the next room is a mini-me version of the contemporary designer space The Shop At Bluebird, which is also owned by Jigsaw.

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The merchandise mix is intended to be ‘accessible’ – meaning price points are surprisingly good given the Mayfair postcode. The visual merchandising is sparing (a brave move in retail) but less is always more and the effect is to elevate the product. I love the pastel wall by the entrance featuring summer trenches and soft buttery grey leather biker jackets. The head of visual merchandising, Matthew Moore hails from LVMH and is given free reign to work with the natural creativity of the store, aka the nooks and crannies, generous layout and daylight, affords a lavish touch.

There is a real lifestyle mix of products – books, beauty, mid-century furniture are all merchandised in with the clothes – and elements of Bluebird’s curated approach have seeped into the Jigsaw selling areas. “Bluebird is a department store with no walls, we wanted the concept to be slightly separate, but completely part of the Duke Street Emporium experience,” says Ruis. So there are Helmut Lang and Acne pieces mixed in with Jigsaw Breton sweaters and Levi’s jeans.

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There is a convergence between the three retail facias that is accidentally on purpose, and means you wouldn’t notice them as separate entities – they work in perfect harmony. “It’s the idea of a meeting place where shopping becomes social too, we want people to linger here, to read a book with their coffee or meet friends and compare outfits,” says Ruis who picked Fernandez & Wells to host the café because of their obsession with coffee and taste.

Duke Street Emporium is a “completely analogue experience,” says Ruis. “Everyone shops online now and that’s fine, but it’s 2D and you can’t live your life in 2D, especially when it comes to shopping,” he says. So Jigsaw’s new concept space champions everything analogue – from the pick-me-up table displays or curated cabinets and book shelves that are a collector’s paradise to the juke box that only plays vinyl records (selected by Ruis for now, will include customer suggestions in the future).

The décor is also completely analogue. Alongside the white-washed exposed brickwork and charming messages on the walls – such as ‘now or never’ (behind the till, love it!), Ruis commissioned London-based artist Nas Abraham to convey the Duke Street Emporium social shopping proposition through artworks dotted around the store. In a Q&A on the Jigsaw blog, he describes his artwork inspiration for the project: “I wanted to convey the concept of relationships, bonds and eternity in reference to Duke Street Emporium being a place of sociality, meeting with friends and the bonds we make with people.”

For the entrance area he has done a meandering painting of talking heads that swirls from floor to ceiling, and downstairs there is a flashing light installation that takes inspiration from tailors’ dummies and visual cues from dripping dyes. Another menswear artist, Hormazd Narielwalla and his elegant Savile Row tailoring patterns re-purposed as collages, are dotted around the menswear department. Nothing digital here!

What a lovely store. There are different layers of considered and curated retail here – something to discover, something to linger on and above all a social, creative experience that is 100% tactile. “A return to old-school retail,” as Ruis says.

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Duke Street Emporium is at 55 Duke Street, W1.

Alison Bishop is retail editor at LS:N Global/The Future Laboratory. Follow her on Twitter at @Retail_Planner and @lsnglobal

[Images: Disneyrollergirl; Duke Street Emporium]