Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,
Since its inception in 2009 through the powerhouse quartet that is Stavros Karelis, Anna Trevelyan, Ella Dror and Ashley Smith, MACHINE-A has been a retail haven for upcoming design talent. After a relaunch earlier this year, the store now resides in Soho's Brewer Street and stocks international labels like Raf Simons and Bernhard Willhelm alongside new names like Alex Mattson, Agi & Sam and Ashley Williams.
In the following interview, founder and head buyer Stavros Karelis discusses the rebirth of MACHINE-A, retail versus e-commerce and the driving force behind London's fashion industry.
What inspired you to start MACHINE-A?
I always wanted to create a space where many young creatives will collaborate on different projects and push the boundaries of fashion retail. A space where all young emerging brands would be accessible to customers. That was an initial raw approach that got shaped into what MACHINE-A is today: a dedicated space to showcase international, British and emerging brands and a place where all the latest trends are concentrated under one roof, offering the most exclusive products to our customers.
How would you describe your work process as a team?
We have worked together for quite a long time and that has created a strong bond between us. We are very appreciative and grateful for that. For me personally, working with our fashion director Anna Trevelyan and PRs Ella Dror and Ash Smith has been an amazing process that I wouldn't have done any differently.
We talk about everything, all have different opinions and see things from different angles. We are all very respectful of each other, and want the same thing which is to promote and showcase the newest talents and position them along with international and up and coming brands. It is a team effort and we all are young professionals who work hard to achieve what we feel is right.
What do you look for in a designer?
Talent is the most important thing, but I also see the quality, ethos, hard work, determination and a great understanding of how to produce a beautiful collection with approachable prices.
As a retailer, how do you find yourself challenged by the creative vision versus commerciality debate?
I think that these two parameters don't sit opposite, but instead, they can coincide in order for something to be successful. A retailer needs to be commercially appealing to attract customers, but a directional and clear creative vision will create a dedicated crowd and a niche to the retail market.
What things have you decided to do differently in your relaunch and why settle down in Soho?
The previous store and current store are very different in terms of brands, selections and direction of the store. Having said that, the core of the store, which is the creative team, is the same. As result our beliefs and how we feel the store should be, remain the same; we want to promote and showcase the best of London as a fashion capital, concentrating on the emerging brands and graduates.
Soho is an ideal place to be because it is so vibrant and centrally located. I strongly believe that Soho is transforming into a shopping destination that will be more visible in the next few years, and it works perfectly for the concept of MACHINE-A.
What makes London such an attractive fashion capital?
London is such an amazing city to be in, the creativity here is absolutely unique in comparison to any other city in the world. Every year the number of successful examples of creatives that are working in key industry positions is increasing because the best fashion colleges of the world are in London, and as such it produces a vast number of talented people and puts the city on the top list of fashion capitals in the world.
How do you see the relationship between retail and e-commerce developing, do you see the latter threatening the other in any way?
They are both so interconnected that I cannot imagine the one could exist without the other. In order for a retail business to survive and have a long lasting successful growth, it needs e-commerce to open its sales to an international market. However, in order to secure that the e-commerce will be successful one needs the gravity and reputation that the retail space provides, which is absolutely necessary for the brands to feel comfortable, and the customers to feel safe to place orders and to know that they will always find the products they are searching for.
What does the future hold for MACHINE-A?
MACHINE-A was launched almost 4 months ago, and the reviews so far have been fantastic. For us, this is a great beginning of a bright future. Our main focus is to move forward securely and build the safe grounds that an enterprise needs.
From a creative point of view, we have started with a wonderful selection of brands that we will increase each season, and our efforts have been concentrated on securing all the exclusive and hard to get products from our favourite brands. As we would like to keep our customers always satisfied, we have planned a number of exclusive products and collaborations with designers that will be available from our retail and online store.