September 18 2011
Buried down a subterranean alley in the nether quarters of Dalston, LN-CC (Late Night Chameleon Café) isn’t in the most obvious location. Yet since it opened just under a year ago, it has been swamped by well-heeled fashion devotees after the obscure and the high-end.
The 5,000sq ft store, run by a seven-strong collective, is one of the most progressive retail environments to emerge in recent years. The goal of creative director John Skelton – formerly a buyer for Harrods, Selfridges and Oki-Ni – and brand director Daniel Mitchell, along with PR and marketing director Charlotte Hall, was to bridge the gap between traditional and online retail. “We wanted to create a non-compromised platform where we could express exactly what we were into” – namely clothing, music and art.
With an interior by artist-cum-set-designer Gary Card (who’s worked with Lady Gaga), the entrance – a tunnel of branches like the opening to a huge bird’s nest – suggests something exciting is hatching inside. And it is, in seven individual concept rooms. Of the three devoted to clothing, the first focuses on heritage brands with a progressive streetwear spin, 70 per cent of which are exclusive to LN-CC outside Asia. The Inove Brothers work with tribes in Africa and South America to produce hand-beaded garments in tiny quantities (T-shirt, £146), while a tailored men’s sports jacket in traditional Ikat by Sasquatch Fabrics EOTOTO (£670) and a cropped kimono-inspired women’s blazer by Yaeca (£856) indicate how far from the street this “new school” take on streetwear has come.
The second room, all gallery-like polished concrete and dangling headless mannequins, houses the more avant-garde of the major catwalk collections. Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann, Ann Demeulemeester and Damir Doma set the aesthetic – subtly punky but luxurious.
The last of the clothing rooms feels more organic, with labels such as Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander and Martin Margiela. What’s impressive is that a start-up in this location has access to such established brands, sitting cheek by jowl with new, exclusive names such as Tze Goh.
Then there’s a library, with first and deleted editions on counterculture, photography and art, plus music, almost exclusively vinyl (£5-£150); a room for pop-up-shops curated by visiting DJs; and a club space. Finally, the photo studio is where the company imagery is produced. “Nothing is outsourced,” says Skelton. “Everything we do is very considered and about love rather than the reward.”
Dangling from each hanger is a friendship bracelet (included with purchases), a testament to the amenable tone the founders want to set. “We’re totally happy for people to hang out here. It’s a platform to experience and engage with, whether you take away products, information or knowledge.”