Tucked between Oxford and Piccadilly Circus, just a few blocks from Bond Street — where the likes of Ralph Lauren, Prada and Saint Laurent line both sides of the bustling London road — U.S. fashion firm VF Corporation has moved in.
In six floors with more than 16,000-square-feet of space, the fashion giant is using a historic building in Soho known as the Axtell House to flaunt some of its biggest global brands, including Vans, The North Face and Timberland.
VF spent nearly four years bringing the building, dubbed Axtell Soho, back to its former Art Deco glory before opening the “awe-inspiring brand immersion showcase” this week. It encompasses offices, so-called brand experience floors and showrooms as well as a digital innovation and design studio and rooftop garden.
VF President Martino Scabbia Guerrini refers to the concept as “elevated design,” which he says is also at the heart of the billion-dollar company’s brand strategy.
“Having our experiential brand showcase for retail customers in the centre of one of the top fashion capitals in the world will help our brands to innovatively develop and support our company growth in the years to come, including recruitment of the industry’s best talent.”
According to VF, customers are completely immersed at Axtell Soho with floor-to-ceiling video walls and 3D technology. Virtual mannequins are dressed in seasonal looks that guests are able to view in differing lights and scenarios with the touch of a screen in the “smart building,” which was designed with sustainability in mind.
The apparel company’s latest project is a far cry from where it started in London back in 2003, when VF opened its first retail store on Carnaby Street. Now, it operates 57 stores in the UK — more than a third of which are in London.
And 20 percent of VF’s revenue stream in the EU now stems from the UK, making it the company’s largest market on the continent with plans to raise that figure to 23 percent by 2021. Vans, VF’s famed “Off the Wall” shoe, apparel and accessories brand for skaters and the like, drives the business in London, where 20 percent of VF’s total revenue within the country is generated.
Axtell Soho this showcases in no uncertain terms the fashion giant’s “commitment to continued growth in London and the UK,” which VF has hailed as its “focus as a megacity for expansion.”