As high fashion and home style shopping emporium Anthropologie prepares to open in Leeds, Stephanie Smith finds out what’s in store from managing director Gisela Garcia Escuela and womenswear buyer Gill McCulloch.
Anthropologie is a style destination for lovers of art, design and fashion with passion, for those seeking something out of the ordinary, considered, thought-provoking pieces to respond to as well as to use, wear and enjoy. Those, indeed, who prefer their stores to offer “curated” collections, not just mix-and-match ranges of much-of-a-muchness.
Its stores are works of art in themselves, and filled with works of art, as Anthropologie keeps an open dialogue between fashion, home style and art, featuring one-off, specially created artistic installations in the shops. On a tour of the London flagship store on Regent Street earlier this year, I was taken to a room set aside as a studio and workshop, where the design team make various pieces – at the time, a massive structure composed of lolly sticks.
This vibrant and creative atmosphere will transfer to the new Leeds store, opening on October 20, as part of the new Victoria Gate development – a move that managing director Gisela Garcia Escuela is looking forward to.
“We are so excited to open in Leeds,” she said. “This is our first store in the north of England and our tenth store in the UK.”
When searching for locations, the company considers the city, the customer and the shopping experience, she added. “We feel that Leeds is an exciting hub with a very artistic and creative soul. The city also has many independent businesses and a great balance of art and commerce.”
Anthropologie was founded in 1992 in Wayne, Pennsylvania. It’s part of the URBN family of brands that includes Urban Outfitters. Taking inspiration from fashion, art and entertaining, the company puts collaboration at its core, nurturing partnerships with both established and upcoming artists, its buyers and designers travelling the world to uncover special pieces in clothing, accessories, beauty, found objects, gifts and homewares.
Anthropologie has around 200 stores across America. In the UK it has shops in London, Bath and Edinburgh. Travel is a key influence on its trends and ethos.
“Our customer loves to travel,” said Gisela. “She loves art and culture, she loves fashion but is not a follower of trends, rather she prefers her own individual style. She loves to search for the unique and special items that she will treasure forever not just a season.
“Art and creativity are at the core of Anthropologie, and that ethos will always be at the heart of the brand. However, with different markets, we hand-pick items to suit the audience.
“In the UK, you will definitely find products that are exclusive to Europe or indeed a particular store. We do not follow a cookie cutter blueprint. We are free to interpret the brand in each territory.”
And this freedom will be seen right from the start, as Anthropologie is working with Leeds-based artist Mister Finch, a long-time friend and collaborator, for its opening exhibition.
“Customers can expect to see a fantastic array of his trademark, folklore-inspired creations,” said Gisela.
The British customer, said womenswear senior buyer Gill McCulloch, has a strong sense of identity. “She’s bold, playful and expressive when it comes to her personal style. She experiments with colour and print, mixing designer labels with High Street finds. There is also a tendency towards high-low dressing – mixing casual items with more glamorous pieces.”
There are two key looks for autumn/winter, Gill added, which complement each other while speaking to different sensibilities.
“One is for the wanderer and romantic at heart, who loves things to be feminine with a bohemian touch.
“Length and proportion are key, with maxi and midi length dresses and skirts, and frills, pleats and tiers all featuring heavily.
“Peasant-style tops with dramatic sleeves and off-the-shoulder blouses are also important to the look. Florals are mixed with tie-dyed silks and these are styled with chunky cardigans, army jackets with embroidered detailing or a bomber jacket to give the look a modern edge.”
Texture is luxurious and velvets and silks play a key role across all categories. “For the more casual girl, there are high-waisted jeans with wide slouchy legs and Western detailed shirts, all capturing the ‘borrowed from the boys’ look,” Gill added.
“The other key look for the season focuses on the quirkier customer who isn’t afraid of mixing different prints and patterns and is looking for an outfit which can take her from day to night.”
Here, novelty and “conversational” prints are mixed with bold stripes. High- neck blouses and tie necks are important, either worn with cropped wide leg culottes, pinafores or high-waisted tapered tailored trousers. Jacquard-patterned outerwear features too, and key items include the bomber jacket, the teddy fur coat, off-the-shoulder blouse, high-waisted tapered tailored trousers, wide-leg culottes, tie-neck blouses, silk shirts, pleated skirts and the velvet dress.
Some pieces from the autumn/winter collection feature here. Meanwhile, preparations for the all-important opening continue apace. Will there be lolly sticks?
“We hope that the people of Leeds will appreciate our style and ethos,” said Gisela. “It goes without saying that the Victoria Gate centre is going to be a beautiful arcade and we are honoured to be part of this exciting venture.”
Anthropologie opens in Leeds on October 20 at the new Victoria Gate shopping centre. The exhibition Familiars will run from October 20 to January 15 and will showcase new pieces by Leeds artist Mister Finch. All clothes, products and information on www.anthropologie.com.