Kipling has chosen its Regent Street store in London to debut its exciting new store concept. This is the first of the brand’s retail spaces to display the new concept, which will be rolled out across stores globally. We sat down with Kipling’s Vera Breuer and Olivier Gay to discuss the brand’s vision for the future
We met with Olivier Gay, the vice president and general manager of VF Corporation (Kipling’s parent company), and Vera Breuer, Kipling’s global president, at the Axtell Soho building in London. This new B2B creative hub brings the VF Corporation brands together under one roof, with a sleek six-floor space that is also home to names such as The North Face, Vans, Timberland, Eastpak and Napapijri. VF Corporation’s vision is presented here, and the launch of the Axtell Soho building comes at a perfect time as Kipling rolls out its own personal creative vision for the future.
Kipling’s London store, which is just around the corner from the Axtell Soho building, has recently reopened after renovation. The makeover is based on the brand’s new creative vision and is all the more noteworthy as it’s the first Kipling store in the world to display the new identity.
The new vision has been in the works for the past year or so and there is a new team on board as the driving force, which includes Breuer and Gay, and a new designer. They have brought a new lease of life to the brand while also drawing on its 30-year history to define the vision for the future. ‘We really looked to our roots, to our heritage and we found very rich assets,’ Gay explains. These assets, along with the brand’s original outlook, served as the starting point, and this is something which Breuer highlights: ‘When it was created 30 years ago, Kipling was a brand that was quite avant-garde. It was adventurous.’ She adds that establishing a new creative vision came as a natural evolution, helped by the fact it comes at a time when 1990s-inspired style is very fashionable. The decade was a key era for the brand and, as Breuer says, ‘It’s pretty good timing.’
From a design perspective, this has meant looking to hero pieces to truly harness the brand’s heritage. ‘We wanted to keep our DNA,” Gay says. ‘We are known for our light bags that are convenient and functional.’ With this in mind, the team set about revisiting styles which were created 20 years ago and updating them with new materials, new colours and personalisation options such as keyrings. The New Classics collection, the first to be designed by the brand’s new artistic director, showcases this approach. As Gay points out some of his favourite styles, he explains: ‘You still have styles that you recognise from the past, but it’s already something new. We have to change step by step, because we also have to keep our loyal consumers happy. It’s a balance between going back to where we were and driving the consumer to where we want.’ By capturing the essence of the brand and updating it for a contemporary audience, Kipling has found a way to appeal to both old and new fans.
Up until a couple years ago, Kipling’s identity was fragmented and varied from market to market. In a bid to consolidate the brand’s image, Kipling’s new store concept will be rolled out worldwide, with local variations so that each store has a link to the city it is located in. ‘Every new store has a monkey mural and it’s always a local artist that interprets the monkey within the city,’ Breuer explains. In the case of the revamped Regent Street store, London-based street artist Fanakapan has been chosen to give his distinctive interpretation of the signature monkey mascot. The store also features a map where visitors can pin recommendations, encouraging all its customers to discover the city. Kipling positions itself as a brand that celebrates urban living, something which is reflected in the new store interior design. Breuer explains the choice of materials: ‘It’s an urban playground, so we used materials like metal, wood, cement. All the elements of the creative vision are blended in the new store.’ Kipling’s new creative vision is very much anchored in an urban setting, as a travel brand for city-dwellers.
With the new outlook comes more planning for the future. VF Corporation has a serious sustainable agenda, with brands such as Timberland and The North Face leading the way, so it’s hardly a surprise that this is also an area that Kipling is developing. ‘Sustainability is a very important focus,’ Breuer says. ‘We work within the VF framework so there is a five-year sustainability road map, and we benefit a lot from the way VF is creating this as one platform. We have had a few milestones that we have already exceeded in our road map, in terms of the recyclable materials we use or in terms of hang tags, for example. We are soon going to create a pilot for luggage rental. In that sense we are really looking at how we can go one step further, from cradle to grave, with sustainability.’
‘VF’s purpose is being a movement-maker – Kipling is full of movement; we always have been,’ Gay adds. Now more than ever, Kipling is brimming with energy.
Kipling, 205 Regent Street, London W1B 4HB, +44 (0)20 7287 1985