September 19 2009
Mother and daughter Helen and Joanna Nicola opened Oxygen with a headstart – a ready-made location in London’s fast-rising north of Oxford Street area. The family business manufacturing clothes for chains such as Zara has been banished to the rear of the premises, and the front turned into a clean white retail and gallery space.
What makes Oxygen a breath of fresh air is a buying mix that’s unique in London, based on quirky, younger-style New York brands. “While in New York for business we realised how many interesting, well-priced brands were not making it to the UK, and decided to fill the gap, especially as we had this space,” says Joanna. “This area is filling up with galleries as well as shops, so we thought that bringing in the art element would be appropriate, and it is an interest of ours.” The steel clothes rails can be removed to showcase young artists such as New York fashion photographer Erik Madigan Heck (prints £2,000) and Chinese-born illustrator Echo Morgan, whose T-shirt designs (£55) are also on sale.
Perspex cubes featuring photographs of lissom models bending to spell out the store’s name fill the window, accessories balanced on top. And inside, an installation of colour-changing light-boxes and scaffolding and a matching, white-box changing room are the only details apart from the clothes and the art.
Designs and prices are mixed, with just a couple of examples of each style on display. Ruffle-detailed dresses (from £575) and viscose wrap tops (£430) from upscale brand Doo.Ri, modernist abstract-print cocktail shift dresses by Brian Reyes (£485) and distinctive body-con bandage dresses by Max Azria for Hervé Leger (£624) line up by more affordable pieces: little black dresses from Sea New York (from £200), laidback knits from Canadian brand Line (from £64), cool basics by Doo.Ri’s diffusion Under.Ligne (from £158) and jeans from Siwy (£130).
Party dresses are balanced by leggings, in plain and animal-print by 6126 (£75), and lace by Kova&T (£110). Other hip, casual brands include Alice + Olivia, Gryphon and La Rok. The only European brand is M Missoni, and the Nicolas are using their manufacturing background to introduce their own range of separates, all in black, under the label Velocity Girl (pleated shift dress, £220, sequin-stripe vest, £85). Accessories, meanwhile, include abstract-print scarves from Tolani (£68), shoes by LA-based designer Jeffrey Campbell (from £55) and individualist hats by Eugenia Kim (from £123).
There are also fashion and art books by Taschen for non-shopping partners to browse, which, given the absorbing choice on offer, could be a very useful diversion.