Retail: Reviving Ritual & Connoisseurship
In the last two months, two aesthetically beguiling stores have launched in the St. James’s area of London (on the outskirts of ultra-affluent Mayfair), heralding a renaissance of retail anchored in ritual and connoisseurship.
Berry Bros. & Rudd: London’s oldest wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd’s store, designed by London architects Mowat & Company, deploys extreme craftsmanship both old and new to pitch itself as the new connoisseur’s choice. The agenda is exemplified by 100-year-old wine barrel staves reclaimed from a French vineyard (used on the ceiling), apothecary-esque cabinet fixtures, and a custom-made entrance bell. There’s also a cutting-edge ‘fine wine reserve’ framed by bronze doors and a stone-clad tasting area.
Adding a crucially enigmatic edge, the space can also be accessed secretly from the brand’s original shop at No. 3 St. James’s Street – reviving the seductive sense of clandestine connoisseurship initially explored in Covert Credibility: Modern Brand Folklore in Rites, Rituals & Culture Clubs.
Cubitts: British eyewear brand Cubitts’ newest location revels in classical craftsmanship to telegraph its unique role in the brand’s portfolio as a “spectacles atelier” – delivering a bespoke spectacles and sunglasses service. The décor of the elegantly compact flagship, designed by British group Studio DR.AW, draws on London’s old-school gentlemen’s clubs as a visual signifier of ceremony and communion. Most notable is the traditional curved glass façade, blue glazed tiles, and walnut, brass and marble consultation desks that replace counter tops, as well as the eye examination room that’s discreetly concealed behind walnut-clad walls.