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Why Highsnobiety Is Breaking Into Physical Retail

The streetwear media authority will link with Colette and Selfridges for its first brick-and-mortar launch.
Highsnobiety's Colette, Mon Amour merch collection designed in collaboration with Colette Founder Sarah Andelman | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Zoe Suen

LONDON, United Kingdom — Highsnobiety is making its first leap into physical retail as a standalone brand.

The media authority on streetwear and youth culture is partnering with London department store Selfridges to launch its Co.Lab pop-up, opening on January 6 and running until February 9. The 1,600 square-foot site within Selfridges' Corner Shop will host a café, bookstore and retail space featuring own-brand and co-branded merchandise, with new drops taking place each week.

"Highsnobiety is looking to bring its retail concept into the real world on a consistent basis," Founder and Chief Executive David Fischer told BoF in an exclusive interview. The retail partnership is the first of many between the platform and global department store partners, he added.

Fischer launched Highsnobiety as a blog in 2005 — an homage to the Japanese streetwear styles and limited edition sneakers that have since taken over menswear and luxury.

The business, which raised $8.5 million in its first round of external capital and now boasts a community of over 50 million across all platforms, has since become a jack-of-all-trades, running pop-ups for clients like Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées and crafting collaborations with Netflix's Stranger Things. More recently, Highsnobiety launched its own global e-commerce platform alongside its core content business.

Highsnobiety's physical retail debut kicks off with the release of its co-produced documentary Colette, Mon Amour, an hour-long film about the iconic Paris concept store that closed in 2017. The documentary is accompanied by a capsule collection designed in collaboration with Colette Founder Sarah Andelman, which will be sold both in the Co.Lab space and online through Highsnobiety's e-commerce site.

Highsnobiety's Colette, Mon Amour merch collection designed in collaboration with Colette Founder Sarah Andelman | Source: Courtesy

“This physical experience can only bring benefit to all partners, and in this case, for the movie Colette, Mon Amour, it particularly makes sense with our history,” Andelman said. “I think it’s a very natural step [for Highsnobiety], as long as it remains exceptional and temporary,” she added.

And though shoppers will be able to find Colette classics like their Air de Colette fig candle and product collaborations with Smythson at the London pop-up (with Kith and Kitsuné crossovers slated for New York and Paris), the documentary will take centre stage. “The point is not to do tons of products but just some fun and cute ‘souvenirs,’” added Andelman.

Selfridges’ recently opened cinema will hold screenings of the film which, along with the merchandise, will then be taken ‘on tour’ to New York, Paris and Tokyo.

The activation offers something new for Selfridges, according to the store's Buying and Merchandising Director Sebastian Manes. "Highsnobiety's unique position as a cultural aggregator and authority; and its multi-platform, multi-disciplinary approach has unlocked the next-level of brand collaboration," he said.

Selfridges' continued faith in physical retail (in the form of substantial investment) and its unique take on the traditional concession model make it an appropriate partner for the job. The iconic department store is well-versed in pop-ups, having hosted brands like Chanel, Gentle Monster, and Balenciaga in the past two years.

Artist Daniel Arsham's recent takeover of Selfridges' Corner Shop | Source: Courtesy, image by Lewis Ronald

Like Glossier and Goop, Highsnobiety's loyal community have primed it to go down the own-brand route. The cultural aggregator's private label strategy forms a significant part of its Selfridges presence and will also play a vital role in its wider roadmap for e-commerce, which Fischer estimated last year will make up half of the company's total operations in five years.

Co.Lab will be an immersive touchpoint for the brand to drive buzz for product drops, as well as offering the opportunity to engage both new and loyal members of its online community.

It will also help the business gauge demand for a permanent retail presence, but that isn’t the overarching goal for Highsnobiety, according to Fischer. “We’ll probably never stop showing up in places on a temporary basis,” he said, promising that if permanent flagships do happen, “they won’t be like any other shop.”

Careful curation remains at the heart of the platform’s operations through a seamless fusion with its editorial content and drop-centric business model.

“We’re instilling a shopping mindset on people — they trust our recommendations and what we put in front of them,” Fischer said. Co.Lab will be an opportunity for the company to see how this translates into physical retail, which he said offers a rigorous test for any brand’s message and clout.

“To unlock the full strength of a brand you need to be able to step into the real world.”

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