London's Covent Garden is home to our first-ever store in Europe – and it's now open.
When we place a store anywhere—whether it’s in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand or Australia—we're looking to make a connection with the community. Our new home in Covent Garden has got a whole lot of history–which builds upon its unique sense of community that has thrived since the 16th century.
Between the tourists, the locals, and the historic nature of Covent Garden, we think we landed a pretty sweet spot for our first-ever store in the UK, at 19/20 Long Acre.
"Where is there such another maze of streets, courts, lanes, and alleys? Where such a pure mixture of Englishmen and Irishmen, as in this complicated part of London?" Charles Dickens once wrote of the location of location of our new store, and we can’t imagine describing it better.
What was once a thriving trading settlement turned maze of gin-houses, taverns, coffee shops and brothels is now a historical district of London.
Everyone from culture-seekers to style-hunters are drawn to the 60-plus pubs and bars (some of the oldest in the city like The Lamb and Flag and newer ones also close to our heart, like the Canadian-influenced Maple Leaf)), 13 theatres and eclectic market stalls as well as the piazza and neighbouring streets filled with unique boutiques and high-end designers alike.
Through all the changes this neighbourhood has seen, there are wisps of a bygone era, as circus-like street performers fill the hand-laid cobblestone streets in front of the Covent Garden tube station, all the way down into the Italianate piazza.
Our store is in a new building (brand new, relative to all the other buildings in the area) built in 1996, but “the design followed that of all of the other buildings in the district, so the architecture reflects the long history the buildings there,” says our director of store design, Robert Maylan, who partnered with local architects on the project. “It has historical materials like brick and concrete, but they are used with a modern interpretation.”
The use of Douglas fir—a tree that is prevalent in British Columbia—on the storefront was a little nod to our home base in Vancouver. “We wanted to give it a bit of a Northwest-meets-London feel,” said our computer aided designer, Emma Grant. “If you look at the details, there are a lot of burnt and individually blocked pieces of wood.”
Inside, the design is very sculptural with a chandelier built from Douglas fir tying the interior to the storefront. “Our inspiration really stems from the history of Covent Garden itself, it being a fruit and flower market in the 1800′s,” said Emma. “If you look, it has beautiful iron work and architecture, and we thought, how can we apply this to our store?”
One way is with a custom yoga mat box, made from steel boxes to mimic the architecture of the original fruit crates, and when mats are rolled up in it they look like fruit in the crates. “Our water feature is a little bit cheeky, with a beer tap pull for water and tiles inspired by green Victorian pub tiles,” added Emma.
Two London-based artists collaborated on the hand lettered, wooden installations inspired by our our manifesto: Tobias Hall (who specializes in typography and illustration paired up with type and hand-lettering aficionado; and Christine Kawasaki-Chan (originally from Vancouver).
Here's a look behind the scenes at how it all came together...
THE DOORS ARE NOW OPEN
Come by for a visit soon, and don't forget to join our community classes. Every week on Sunday morning from 10:30-11:30am we will be hosting complimentary yoga classes. On Saturdays from 10:00-11:00 trainer Shane Collins will lead our run club.