The shop I’ve just visited is underground (LITERALLY!)… and I need a cup of tea to gather my thoughts. Initially I think it’s the best shopping experience I’ve had in a long time. Finally I’ve decided that it’s the best online shopping experience I’ve had to date.
I think I’ve glimpsed the future of shopping. I hope so
The concept at LN-CC (Late Night Cameleon Café) is ingenious – a service which allows me to buy everything online (all manner of left-field fashion designers, cutting-edge and rare books and new and used vinyl) but a phone call or email will get me an appointment to browse and shop and try on items at their physical shop space.
To gain access to LN-CC’s physical shop in Dalston, East London I made an appointment via phone. For most physical shops, this would be a nuisance; as they depend on daily passing trade, it would be a financial nightmare. But for the people at LN-CC who sell everything online anyway, the manned space is like a shop cum gallery, a ‘wonderful’ place to work and welcome shoppers to view their online stock.
Admittedly, the space in which they operate is not your run-of-the-mill rack and shelf box city warehouse – they are after all working in a space dripping in Dries van Noten and Damir Doma, Aaaah, you think to yourself, slightly less impressed at this last point, it’s one of ‘those’ type of places G? Yes I too had initial ‘aaahs’ but was quickly converted to pure happiness at a) how rare most of the stock is and b) the staff are just so darn nice. (Um, quick check here… aren’t hipsters meant to be nonchalant?)
Following on from yesterday’s blog post about Scott Shulman (aka The Sartorialist), here is yet more evidence that talented people in the fashion industry are nice. Subsequently after three hours of me poking about in every nook and cranny in LN-CC we spotted that the old girders holding up the operation were forged in Middlesbrough not unlike owner John Skelton and his brother Michael Skelton. (I’m only saying!). You might be lucky enough to have Michael help you on your visit, he has that rare invisibility skill that all good waiters have. He made my visit extra memorable.
So apart from the lovely staff, what made the shopping experience different? Let’s rewind just for a sac. Arriving with my cameras and notebook in Dalston in East London and ducking down Shacklewell Lane to LN-CC’s HQ, a discreet alley lead me to their big metal door. I buzzed nervously. In situations like this, I expected everything to be warehouse-eee as many of the very beautiful shopping websites storage facilities usually are. After climbing down the concrete stairs, a door swung opened onto ‘the tunnel’ and suddenly it was ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.
The tunnel and the six bespoke rooms leading off of it were built by the talented Gary Card with the help of his father (cool). Incidentally Gary has also pimped out loads of other great stores and you’ll find a low-down of his pimpery on his blog.
I spent three hours browsing the selection at LN-CC and John Skelton although well known in the industry deserves a little introduction and explanation here. I was impressed with his tongue-in-cheek-modest admission that ‘I used to be the buyer at Harrods, the most expensive leathers, anything really, it was a great place to cut my teeth. Then I went onto become Creative Director of Oki-ni before leaving to start this.’
Addressing a very attentive Gisèle, John Skelton explained how he chose each designer. ‘I visited several hundreds and whittled it down.’ Indeed, the online store is a prefect showcase for both John Skelton and Daniel Mitchell’s very honed buying skills. But it’s this underground warren that’s the icing on the cake, an ideal environment to experience the pieces and get to now the buying stories behind them. I think this is a very clever way forward for luxury shopping, maybe more luxury brands with online stores might try it like this.
The physical LN-CC space left a lasting impression on me. It was interesting to hear John break down the technique of construction of a neat chiselled Rick Owens jacket while offering me the garment for some Goddess fondling. The buying has focused on exacting fit, luxurious fabrics and handworked finishes from established names such as Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, to more recent success stories J.W. Anderson, Haider Ackermann and a host of Japanese brands stocked nowhere else outside of Japan.
Each little thing that I was shown only deepened my respect for this level of passion and service. I was so interested that I viewed the entire inventory of garments, shoes, books and vinyl, which allowed me to stitch together this gargantuan gushing synopsis (I do apologise). Anne Demeulemeester’s fitted black leggings, and ‘lace’ shawl slung over a prim white shirt was a highlight for me and the ‘feeling’ I got at LN-CC while looking at these pieces up close returned when I went online later that evening to browse. I got a first-hand shopping experience and an insight into who John Skelton and his team were and from the get-go the experience gave me a ‘feeling’ of warmth. I’ve NEVER gotten that from a press release or an exorbitant ad campaign.
“My friends wanted something different, a new way to shop, garments, books that are different from what everybody else has,” observed John. And at a time when the latest catwalk trend hits the highstreet before the designers can even deliver them online, only top quality, speed and guaranteed exclusivity will cut it when prices are high. I really love LN-CC (I especially like that Donlon Books curates their perfect bookstore). I’d like to call what I experienced at LN-CC “quiet luxury”. Every little thing in it place.
As shoppers poured over the meticulously merchandised rails secret smiles and glances erupted at the 2001: A Space Odyssey tunnel which received an inordinate amount of excited squeals as shoppers stepped through the door. I’d like to also say at this point that the ‘tunnel’ is not just a scheme to impress me or shoppers to prise open our wallets, if it were I think I’d feel it.
Up until my visit I had begun to fear that “luxury” had become an over used word, it had become hard to define. What it has come to mean to me since is something a little more refreshing; care and attention, and passion. LN-CC is a lesson in how to put personal back into one of the most personal things of all – getting dressed and choosing your sartorial identity.
“May we buy the beaded Computer Memory Sticks please?” three Japanese girls asked. African label The Inoue Brothers have a lovely idea, they give an exclusive beaded memory stick, containing information on the label, images, a soundtrack free to each person who buys a garment (their hemp t-shirts are beautiful). So unfortunately a purchase is necessary. Incidentally LN-CC will give you a friendship bracelet if you purchase anything at all online or in store – it’s part of their packaging and a befitting symbol I feel on which to end.
Goddess In The Details: To schedule a shop visit (email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: +(44) (0)203 174 0736 ). LN-CC, The Basement: 18-24 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, London. E8 2EZ