Universal Works at Coal Drops Yard
UK menswear brand Universal Works has unveiled its second London store, following a successful collaboration with architecture practice Studio MUTT.
The new store is located at Coal Drops Yard, a landmark redevelopment that has transformed two, 19th century former coal depots. Its design retains and enhances the character of the existing building. Studio MUTT developed a functional and vibrant style that responds to the layout out the building and could be tailored to subsequent sites.
Graham Burn, Studio MUTT co-founder, spoke to Premier Retail about the collaboration between the two companies:
“We met them in a hotel bar just before Christmas last year. We did a pitch that was relaying what we thought Universal Works was, what it represents, where it’s come from and where it’s going. We did that by splitting it up into a series of key facets: its context, the craftsmanship of the clothing and the people behind the brand.
“Working with Universal Works has been a real privilege. It was a really interesting project because they hadn’t worked on a project that was as large as this before. It was an entire fit out that included all servicing. Previous projects were more humble, a lick of paint here and there and a few shelves. We worked closely with the brand to understand the specifics of their brief, but ultimately were handed creative freedom about how we translated the brand into a piece of architecture. It was an exercise in mutual trust – they trusted us to make something that was amazing and we trusted them to allow us to challenge their preconceptions and try and achieve that.
“When we saw the existing unit, it is a really incredible space with these grand, Victorian structural beams over the top of it. There are also tall, textured and characterful brick walls on either side. We wanted to retain and enhance as much of that existing character as possible.”
The stand-out feature of the store is a 4 metre tall mirrored wall set at 45 degrees that both separates front and back of house, and adds a creative illusion of volume and depth to the space. This is animated through three pivot doors, the main one being on a central pivot and able to rotate through 360 degrees, adding a sense of theatre to the banality of back of house storage. The reverse of the wall is lined in green-stained oak, which also continues to envelope the changing rooms and adds warmth and texture to these intimate areas.
Bespoke linear lighting fittings designed in collaboration with Inessa Demidova have been used as an alternative to warm spotlights often used in retail. The fittings sit between Victorian cast iron beams and exaggerate the grid of the building. The store was launched in November 2018 and has been warmly received. Graham commented:
“We’ve had some really good press already and there was lots of praise at the launch party. More importantly, Universal Works are happy and when we’ve been back it’s been really busy with lots of customers.”
A spokesperson for Universal Works added:
“A timely but chance meeting in our store helped our choice of Studio MUTT. We liked their ideas and creative energy, and it certainly helped they were wearing Universal Works. Our brief was simple, to be modern and original whilst being sympathetic to the existing building; we think they really nailed it with a stunning design.
“Working with Studio MUTT, with their calm confidence and professionalism has been a genuinely exciting and enjoyable experience.”
Coal Drops Yard is the second collaboration between Universal Works and Studio MUTT following the Soho store at 26 Berwick Street.
Universal Works produces modern menswear; real honest clothing based on fit and good design, not over design. Founded in late 2008 by David Keyte and Stephanie Porritt, Universal Works was conceived out of a desire to create something from scratch. More information can be found at www.universalworks.co.uk.
Studio MUTT is an award-winning architecture practice established in 2017 by Graham Burn, James Crawford and Alexander Turner, with roots in London and Liverpool. The studio operates internationally in arts, culture and retail sectors with an underlying mission to create characterful projects which are unique, specific and joyful. To view more projects from the practice, please visit www.studiomutt.com.