Cheap Monday @ Kronprinsensgade 7, Copenhagen

The Cheap Monday store in Copenhagen mimics the rugged decay of an apocalyptic cityscape – often featured in  Zombie flicks. However, the gloom and doom is balanced by a Sci-Fi/futuristic space note, with pyramidal shapes in semi-shiny metal throughout the layout. The combo is very BladeRunneresque – or is it best described by the hypothetical concept of an abandoned nuclear plant squeezed into a grannys apartment? The brand clearly does understand the ambient dimension of retail and dares challenge the general upbeat store design logic.

In tune with the times and its customers, the store embodies emotional complexity with a nod to melancholy, a melody so commonly flooding the ears and minds of urbanites, yet so rarely gets to scratch the glossy retail reality. Cheap Monday are rewriting some retail rules here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Make no misstake however, the conventional wrong may just be the contemporary right. The concept is designed by Swedish design firm Uglycute who have also recently designed the latest Cheap Monday Menswear store @ Selfridges in London.


The Magic of Muji Minimalism

Muji is the short version of what was initially a longer brand name, Mujirushi Ryōhin, Japanese for “no-brand quality goods”. The Muji story begun nearly 3 decades ago with the launch of a product brand of supermarket chain the Seiyu. Eventually Mujirushi Ryōhin opened its own shop (in 1983)…fast track 29 years… and enter the Muji flagship on 8th Avenue as featured in this post.

The expansion of Muji out of its native Japan begun with a U.K shop in 1991, and has since continued. Today, Muji has a staggering 300 points of sale in Japan (of which over 200 are stores). The western Muji point of sale count is up to well over 150 (the biggest individual markets in terms of store count are the U.K, Taiwan, Singapore and China).

What Muji does well are the varied store formats – the strong graphic profile and distinctive design seem to be attractive no matter the size and shape it comes in. The fact that Muji has a big range of products creates room for certain customization to suit the specific conditions of the individual store.

The Muji product range in new markets (clothing, home consumer goods, stationary etc) is considerably slimmer than in the Japanese domestic range which boasts over 5000 articles.

The brand philosophy was early set by a distinct minimalist aesthetic with a strong environmental conscience. Over the years, innovation, clever design and always über slick packaging looking sets Muji apart from the retail crowd. I find myself not being able to identify another retailer offering the same kind of product mix – can you? Muji does have a Magic Mojo. Committed fans insist that a Muji is a lifestyle rather than a brand. Clearly the appeal of the anti-logo is timeless, and stark minimalism seems to grab a new stronghold in these volatile times.

What is so nice about Muji is that it´s minimalism never becomes pretentious. Playfulness and creativity always lurk in the corners of the Muji experience, collaborations with Lego and pursuits of increasing parent-child collaborations through DIY-projects is retail magic at its best – namely, when the retail truly inspires well beyond the visit to the store.

The Muji brand opened the NYC 8th Avenue flagship in 2008.

Alternative Retail @ Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg

Alt´ Retail (alt as in alternative) mecca Artists & Fleas was opened by entrepreneurs Amy Abrams and Ronen Glimer in 2003. Set up in old warehouse in Brooklyns Williamsburg, the concept provides a weekly marketplace for aspiring artists and designers.

A stroll round the shop lets you come close to the makers, as they present themselves along with their creations. The passion and philosophy fuelling the project is stated as follows on the website:

We love cool stuff. We love to shop. We love the thrill of discovery. And we especially love discovering new things in out-of-the-way places where we can meet the people behind the creations. Artists & Fleas was a way to bring all the things we loved together to a community that was creative and dynamic but lacked a place to come together.

Besides providing lots of inspiration to its weekend visitors, Artists & Fleas also provides great inspiration for creative makers, by addressing indie vendors with business savvy tips on merchandising and more. Abrams and Glimer are modern patrons of the crafted arts and small biz creative commerce (Abrams also having setting up network InGoodCompany). The Artists & Fleas website features a blog with great analysis of trends and the alt retail market,

While the future of markets and pop-up shops is still unwritten, one thing seems to be clear: there is a new phase of indie entrepreneur that is more buttoned up, super street smart and savvy in the art of storytelling their business as they work the food and flea and artisan scene across the City. Has the creative class become the new creative commerce class?

Clearly, the dream of making stuff and making it are increasingly interwoven. In these socialized times, putting a face to a product is so potent. Adding a personal story to the mix further spices things up. Meeting the maker live is evidently a big bonus so gathering a bunch of makers in one spot equals jackpot.

These above mentioned elements combined are the driving force behind the success of a platform like Artists & Fleas, and of online indie shop platforms like The HBO hit How to Make it in America taps into a corner of this make-stuff-make-it realm. Its a wonderful thing – this new take on the American Dream. Call the movement what you wish: Alt retail, People-2-People, Peer-2-Peer Retail, Consumer-2-Consumer. My bet is that the small-scale maker retail rally is only beginning, both in the physical and the digital retail sphere… Makers of the world… Unite!

See it for yourself:

Where: 70, N 7th Street (Between Wythe and Kent)

When: Between 10am and 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Uniquely Uniqlo

The Japanese street label of Uniqlo, sometimes referred to as “Japanese H&M” is stepping up its game in New York City. Having first launched in Soho (546, Broadway) in 1996 its Manhattan store count is soon up to 3 with new prestigious venues opening this fall at Fifth Avenue/53rd Street and at 31 W 34th Street

The mother company of Uniqlo is Fast Retailing (also with subsidaries of Helmut Lang, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Theory, PLST, Princesse Tam-Tam and japanese G.U). In a Uniqlo press release FR mentions expansive strategy for the U.S:

FR plans to continue to open UNIQLO stores in major U.S. cities, expanding its presence in the U.S market to provide consumers with an unparalleled shopping experience and the best in innovative high quality, affordable apparel. /…/ Uniqlo´s mission is to empower all individuals through the clothing they choose to wear.  Rather than become characterized by a brand, UNIQLO encourages its customers to integrate its pieces into their own unique style.

Designed by the retail miracle worker Masamishi Katayama, head at Tokyo based WonderWall it is little wonder that Uniqlo U.S spaces stand out from the flagship mainstream. Large quantities of goods in large variety of colours are neatly stacked along the high raised walls. The neat organization provide a calming repetition and a visually soothing backdrop to Tokyoesque intensity in avantgarde elements such as the revolving t-shirt display, manga animations and flickering TV-screens. The Uniqlo stores has generated lots of engagement online sphere with over 800 reviews on and a mean grade of 4/5 (in comparison to the 5th Avenue Apple store with a humble review count just over 300 with same average score).

Large black textile shopping bags open up for serious bulk buying and are quickly provided to customers by casually uniformed staff as clothes pile up on your arm…Store employees are accommodating without ever being sticky and I witnessed high quality floor problem solving on various occasions in the store. As the speed is high paced, quick and umprompted employee action is often needed. This experience might echo the fact that employees are trained in a corporate program called the FR Way“Changing clothes. Changing conventional wisdom. Change the world.”   FR calls this program a “unique and specialized training program ensures the same quality of service and shopping experience in all stores and teaches all employees to think globally while putting the customer first”.

I kind of like the idea of changing conventional wisdom. The “Wearable Sunscreen” collection (with campaign starring Hollywood star and South Africa native Charlize Theron) seems like an extension of this notion into the retail philosophy. It could be regarded as conventional wisdom that all clothes are in fact Wearable Sunscreen, yet Uniqlo creatively twists the concept and launches it at innovative and uniquely Uniqlo. Also, the brand has launched collaborations such as +J with fashion house Jil Sander and also for more street cred, the Designers Invitation Project featuring among others designer Charlotte Ronson (with famous sibings music producer Marc Ronson and DJ Samantha Ronson).

During rush hour, the queues to fitting rooms may seem neverending. Although a potential source of irritation, they are ultimately a sign of success. Customers would not wait if the reward was not considered potentially great. Furthermore, as visits to a flagship like this one tends to be one-offs during shopping holidays, the waiting line is not experienced as a recurrent problem.Summing the U.S Uniqlo is best described as being crisp. However, in order to remain so, new energy must eventually be injected in to the Soho space soon, as the decor has remained unchanged since 2006. It will be very exciting to see what the new venues will bring – the new flagship will be the 5th Avenue store which will be 2,5 times bigger than the Soho store!

As the expansion continues, I am certain Uniqlo will grow out of the notion of being “Japanese H&M” and into being simply and uniquely Uniqlo – and that´s not too bad either. Prices are low, yet Uniqlo gets high scores for innovation, shopping experience and service. All -in-all the Uniqlo recipe smells like great retail potential.

See it for yourself:

  • 546 Broadway (Soho)
  • 31 W, 34 Street (opening Nov 2011)
  • 5th Avenue/53rd Street (opening Nov 2011)
  • Stores worldwide

ps. Also by Wonderwall in NYC, japanese cult label Bape @ 91 Greene Street. Founder DJ Nigo sold 90% of the company on Feb 1st 2011 to Hong Kong congolmorate I.T (also the owners of French Connection and a bunch of other brands). Nigo will stay on board as creative director until Feb 2013.  ds. Read more…

Anthropologie Philosophy

The Anthropologie brand and stores provide lots of inspiration with an abundance of creative attention to detail. Although a french twist on the spelling of the name, Anthropologie was first launched in Wayne, Pennsylvania back in 1992. The brand name evokes obvious association to the academic discipline of anthropology which is the “study of humanity” with main concerns of topics as “What are humans’ physical traits?” and “How do humans behave?” 

Given that Anthropologie is a recurrent winner of “Most popular Store” in New York City´s Zagat Shopping Guides, they seem to successfully apply the questions of antropology to the Anthropologie retail philosophy. On the website under “About us” i found some unusually spiritual mission statements:

Anthropologie offers a one-of-a-kind and compelling shopping experience that makes women feel beautiful, hopeful and connected”. We invite you into our world – whether it’s our store, website or catalog – with the hope you take a deep breath and explore until your heart’s content.

Although you enjoy the clever details and fine craftsmanship of our products, you come to us for more than that. You come to escape and to connect, to spend time and to make time. Complex as you are, you remain our inspiration and because of this, we endeavor to bring you an unimagined experience.

In 2012 Antropologie will celebrate its 20th anniversary. They could choose to stick over 130 candles into the birthday cake, as they currently have that many stores in the world. Of all stores, there are only 3 (in London and Edinburgh) located outside of the U.S and Canada. Hence, in spite of the French twist on the spelling of the brand name, there are yet no stores in France.

The established Anthropologie catalogue (launched in 1998) and the online store ensures a broader geographical range and future scalability. For the time being, Anthropologie creatively maximizes every squareinch of its physical retail space to impress its customers. As customers go home, the online presence is never far. A new online launch – The Anthropologist – supports “creative individuals” by displaying their work. The boomerang effect is evident, as the new lanuch further elaborates on inspirational and emotional aspects in the online sphere – aspects that are often overseen in the online race and that poses the true challenge in translating successful physical stores in to equally successful online ones.

Check it out for yourself:

Blog at