"Design and architecture has been a key influence" says COS managing director

When you come into communication, graphics and marketing, it’s the same thing there again, we wanted it to be something that has the same aesthetic and feeling of timelessness and tactility, so I think it’s just surrounding the whole brand. We had a talk and from there we took it on board and it was a process for both of us coming up with the idea, it came very natural for both of us and it came quite quick. Marie Honda: We’ve been based in London since the start, launched in 2007 with the business idea: high-fashion quality for an affordable price. We try instead to find other people who influence us to work together, for example when we work with Serpentine etc, so there are other ways to reach out. Dan Howarth: How do you translate the middle ground between high-end and the high street into the clothes? The brand does no advertising and instead sponsors events like the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion’s Park Nights summer talks programme, for which it created a limited-edition Serpentine Shoe to coincide with the opening in June. How does the colour look this season? It’s a cycle I guess, we hope we can of course give back in a way. COS store on Regent Street, LondonCOS opened its 104th store in Los Angeles last week and plans to roll out new locations in Tokyo, New York, Melbourne and Seoul before the end of the year. “How long should the handle be, what is the softness of the handle etc. We’re opening up in LA later on and also Tokyo, and a new store in New York and also Melbourne, and the last also in Seoul. We can share the content we produce with everyone and that’s how we share it. Of course that sort of thing is always changing. Marie Honda: We have supported various big organisations before and collaborated with a few different galleries and artists. Marie Honda: You can see from our trend boards that our inspiration from the beginning has been very, very strong from the design world, architecture, graphics, etc. As I said the response has been positive so far from the customer and we take that with us all the time to continue to develop the brand. Menswear A/W 2014Dan Howarth: Why do you not have biannual fashion shows like most other brands? Our architects here do everything in terms of store planning. “Attention to detail is in everything throughout: what kind of buttons do we use, how do we cut the garments, but also within our packaging and our bags we have in the stores,” she said. “There are other ways to reach out.”
COS is also supporting an installation of translucent tape tunnels currently on show in a Paris art gallery, and collaborated with Japanese design studio Nendo to create an installation at Milan design week in April. We rolled out stores here in London, also in Berlin and Copenhagen and so on, then there was a few stores here in the first years. How would you describe their aesthetic? So still fairly young and not so many stores so it’s been a fantastic journey throughout. Again this goes back to the first words we talked about – timeless, modern, functional and tactile. It’s important if you have a new shape or cut in the garment that it is still functional and flattering when you wear it. Sponsoring them to continue to do the Park Nights, as they did this summer, they were able to do more over a longer period of time. Interview: fashion brand COS is heavily influenced by architecture and design, says managing director Marie Honda, who tells Dezeen how the company built a global business with 104 stores in 25 countries without using conventional advertising or catwalk shows (+ slideshow). Attention to detail is in everything throughout: what kind of buttons do we use, how do we cut the garments, but also within our packaging and our bags we have in the stores. Womenswear A/W 2014Dan Howarth: HM is a Swedish company and you’re Swedish too. Each and every space in the store is unique so we sit down and look at every space together and say “OK, what can we use?” We love the light, we love to have all the open windows, we like to have a lot of old features that we always keep. We have the four different concepts within our collection, the idea was to create rooms within rooms. They use that as a direction for the collection but also for the rest of the brand so for the visual team, marketing and online. So when we had the chance to meet with Oki Sato it just felt right for both of us. It’s important to have the place as a blank canvas because we really want the product to speak for itself, that is the most important thing for us, but also by using some of the materials it can enhance the products in a way. Marie Honda: Yes, our head of design for womenswear, Karin Gustafsson, came from the Royal College of Art, and head of menswear Martin Andersson comes from Central Saint Martins, so we have quite a huge talent from the colleges here in London. It has been a key influence. We always said it was so fortunate that it was a group within the HM group, which really felt strongly about this idea and developed this further. COS store in FlorenceHonda was speaking to Dezeen at the brand’s London headquarters, close to its Regent Street store – the first that COS opened and provided the model used for all of its retail interiors. By using the metal, concrete and warm woods in there we create a really nice atmosphere for our garments to hang within. Modernity is important in that sense. So we have some fantastic old features, for example in our Florence store, it’s a very old building and we still have the wooden ceilings. Marie HondaRead an edited version of the transcript below:
Dan Howarth: Could you tell me a bit about the story behind COS and how it was set up? Does COS have a strong Scandinavian influence? We have heads of design for the collections, then we have a team for the art direction for all the graphics, and then of course we have the architects working for the stores. At the moment there’s a lot of lighting and sound installations going forward but it’s just something that influenced them. Dan Howarth: What direction is the brand moving in? “It felt like it was something missing in the market,” said Honda, who began her role a year after COS launched and has since steered the brand’s unique approach to fashion and retail. What kind of materials do we choose for the cash desk, for example, because that’s something that the customer touches and the fitting rooms etc. It’s just always pushing ourselves and our production team to make sure we can make it new for the customer. Marie Honda: It just goes hand in hand, I think. I think the key was for us is the design quality for an affordable price and just to find the perfect essentials for everyday wardrobes. That’s why we have the metal rails and we don’t have any fixed walls. They don’t have to live in a big city, but they have a big-city mindset so they’re aware of and interested in everything that is happening around them, it doesn’t have to be fashion, it can be design or culture, politics, everything really. Menswear A/W 2014Dan Howarth: How did the collaboration with Nendo at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan come about? Nendo installation for COS, presented in MilanInstead, COS uses collaborations with designers including Nendo and Numen/For Use to target customers who work in the creative industries. Womenswear A/W 2014Dan Howarth: There’s a lot of emphasis on detail? How is the cut of the garment? The functionality is key for us as well. This year we created an addition of lace-up shoe for men and women. We really see our customers there. Marie Honda: Again through a very organic process in that way. Related story: COS launches The Serpentine Shoes to coincide with pavilion opening”You can see from our trend boards that our inspiration from the beginning has been very, very strong from the design world, architecture, graphics, etc,” Honda told Dezeen. We love the open space, but create the smaller rooms for each and every concept with the rail system to create rooms within the room. The Serpentine Shoes for Women by COS and the SerpentineCOS, which stands for Collection of Style, launched in 2007 as part of Swedish retail giant HM with the aim to provide “design quality for an affordable price” to shoppers looking for high-fashion garments for high-street prices. Marie Honda: I think the original concept was created by William Russell. These are the things that we really believe in throughout the brand, so not only with the collection but when we build the stores, timelessness in the material that lasts a little bit longer and wood that gets more beautiful when it gets more worn. When they have their talks, most of our team attend and are really influenced, so we felt that also this was a really nice collaboration to do. But also it’s such a nice environment to be in, to go and look at what everyone else is doing. Marie Honda: I started in 2008, so I joined a year after they opened the first stores. Marie Honda: Absolutely. Marie Honda: It’s been an amazing autumn for us already, we have a lot of new store openings. Is it a little bit of stretch that we’re adding? The response came to us quite quickly that it felt like it was something missing in the market, filling a gap in the market – something a little in between the high end and the high street. Marie Honda: The customer that we have met throughout the years in our stores and who contacts us online, we feel like this is someone who is very aware and has a big-city mindset. But modernity can also be within the material, which is changing a lot right now overall. It’s important then to be modern still. Marie Honda: It’s difficult to shy away from, we have a heritage in that sense from a brand that grew and was based out of Stockholm so it has an influence on us. They’re very aware of how they spend their money and what they buy into, so they really appreciate value for money in that sense. Dan Howarth: Has the collaboration resulted in any specific products in your range? The creatives here and heads of design always make their in-house directions and colour schemes, picking from everything that surrounds them that they are influenced by right now. Dan Howarth: Do you hire a lot of your staff from the London design schools? We want to keep the original features as much as we can then try to find a way that we can create the space to work together with the original features. We are hugely influenced by that and also how we create the stores, it’s a fantastic response if we also get those influences the same way back to us. Marie Honda: For our customer and our aesthetic, I think the key for us is timelessness, modernity, functionality and tactility. So I think it’s just that international client that you have in London. Dan Howarth: How has being based in London been beneficial? Something that lasts a little bit longer in essential garments, such as the white shirt that we strongly believe in throughout all the concepts in our range, the trench coat or the fitted blazer, in menswear the perfect pair of chinos. COS website homepage”We try instead to find other people who influence us to work together, for example when we work with Serpentine,” said Honda. A lot of new materials are coming in, a lot of finishings. If we work on the store designs it’s equally important. Marie Honda: Yeah, we’re all sitting together, which is fortunate because we can work across all departments. Since then we have opened store 103 in Paris. Tactility goes throughout, not only the collection but everything that surrounds us, also the stores and all areas of the brand. We have a lot of information shared on our website, obviously a lot of collection things. One of Nendo’s chairs with the clever part that has been created from one piece of wood features on the trend boards from Karin and Martin from time-to-time. Never say never, but also we don’t advertise as a brand either, we’re a non-advertising brand. Dan Howarth: Is your graphic design and branding all done in-house as well? Womenswear A/W 2014Dan Howarth: Do the disciplines you mentioned reflect the customer base that you have? So we’ve always been there to get the influences and be part of it.

Updated: 07.11.2014 — 05:46