Kinnersley Kent Design has designed the East India Company's flagship store on Edinburgh's George Street, the Scottish capital's most prestigious shopping address. The new East India Company store, its first ever in Scotland, will offer the brand's premium luxury fine foods range, as well as its new 'Home' range, representing a first foray into the lifestyle market.
The new Scottish store also features several unique new elements, including decorative and narrative elements which refer to the company's historic activities in Scotland, as well as the launch of an integrated F&B offer within an East India Company store - for the first time ever.
The Edinburgh store forms just part of the ongoing projects being developed by The East India Company, together with the Kinnersley Kent Design team, ranging from branding, graphics and packaging work to exciting new future concepts, to be unveiled at a later stage.
"Our approach here has been to develop and mature The East India Company retail offer, introducing a lighter materials palette and a more 'joyful,' fresher and celebratory feel for the store interiors," explained Mick Kent, Partner at Kinnersley Kent Design. "We are working closely on this with the modern-day East India Company Chairman, Sanjiv Mehta - a passionate advocate for the transformative and expressive power of design."
The new store, typical of its historic location and building envelope, has a long, slim footprint, necessitating a lot of thought on how to plan the space to work at its best and to draw customers' eyes through to the back of the store.
The six-story building was designed in the first decade of the 20th century by J J Burnet in polished cream sandstone with granite bands and has served at various points as an office block and a department store. Immediately prior to its takeover by The East India Company, it played host to an optician's business. The new, 1,180 sq ft scheme features almost half as much retail floor space again as the previous occupant.
The storefront itself is made up of dark-stained timber and bronze-colored, powder-coated metal, with a black overlay housing the polished brass storefront lettering, with an additional illuminated 'bus stop' sign to the left-hand side of the façade. At the top of the storefront is a striking red panel, with The East India Company marque at its centre. In line with building regulations, a lot of the existing storefront structure was retained in terms of the bulkhead, whilst Georgian-proportioned panelling, a strong identifying element for the brand, was introduced along the base of the windows and doors. Two small window-beds built into the framework feature a patterned window vinyl, taken from the family of patterns that make up The East India Company brand collateral, which are used and integrated throughout the store interiors, as well as on the company website and other graphic applications.
Just inside the store, to each side of the window, sit two large-scale lightboxes, clearly visible from the exterior, which add light and interest, displaying the gold outlines of historic company ships against a red textile background, with cartographic rhumb lines charting the ships' onetime navigational paths. The company's coat of arms, in gold, features at the rear of the store and is set into a striking red illuminated lightbox just beyond the cash desk, visible from the entrance and drawing the eye through. A simple timeline graphic to its right, by the cash desk, displays key moments from The East India Company's Scottish heritage story and is set within a thin brass frame.
The arrangement of the store allows for the new premium 'Home' offer at the rear to be displayed in a series of brass-framed glass cabinets, with the fine foods offer, including teas, coffees, biscuits, jams and gift sets, at the front and centre. New integrated tables and seating in the mid-section along both perimeter walls create an environment where customers can relax and indulge in spending time in the store.
Two feature mid-floor display areas are distinguished by herringbone lime-washed oak flooring, inset into the overall floor treatment of speckled, light-coloured ceramic. The first is The Queen's Table, an iconic part of the store's display since the first flagship opened in Mayfair in 2010 and whose design features a shattered acrylic top and timber ball legs, inspired by a historic table Chairman Sanjiv Mehta first saw at the V&A. The second is a series of interlocking tables for tea-tasting, in the shape of the well-known paisley motif, bespoke-made with mother-of-pearl inlaid into marble tops; a pattern that has strong historical links with and is synonymous with The East India Company.
"The integration of this kind of detail is typical of The East India Company's approach," added Kenny Sum, Director of Kinnersley Kent Design. "Both the company's history and its contemporary brand narrative of connections and fusions of the exotic east with the regal west are evoked and alluded to throughout, though never spelt out, in keeping with the brand's positioning as a retail rather than a museum-style offer."
A light feature directly overhead is made up of five raindrop-shaped pendants with a brass fitting in emerald green glass by Rothschild Bickers. A selection of the finest teas is on offer each day for tasting, whilst three different sizes of display tray tables, variously finished in copper, silver and brass, with inlaid patterns from the graphic family of brand patterning, are also arranged along the perimeter walls and to the rear in of the store.
Along the perimeter walls, tall wooden display units in black have antiqued mirror paneling to create additional light and reflection for their product displays, whilst the illuminated surfaces of the rear cabinet shelving create a soft glow to house the new 'Home' offer of beautiful silverware teasets, made by specialist artisans in India and Benjarong bone china, created as a bespoke line for The East India Company.
The dramatic ceiling within the store is made up of a series of suspended panels in madder red, which feature a bespoke, paisley-etched pattern routed into the red lacquer at a shallow depth of 3mm, with inset lines of adjustable Floss spotlights to each side, plus a surrounding stepped detail, typical of Georgian-era buildings, at the ceiling edges.
The new, integrated F&B offer is made up of three tables for two, midway along the right and left perimeter walls and served from a dedicated tea counter. Here, for the first time, the goods the company is known for - the very finest teas and coffees - can now be enjoyed by customers visiting the store. All three tables - two to the right and one to the left - are arranged within partly-inset niches, so that customers can sit back, relax and enjoy a prolonged in-store experience. A head-height ledge in the alcove forms a subtle reference to a domestic scale and vernacular, whilst wall-mounted lighting within the niches is by CTO Lighting.
Two different kinds of chairs were used for the F&B offer: the first is two bespoke-designed armchairs, manufactured by Satellite-UK and upholstered in a red Zimmer & Rhode fabric, with two further sets of two chairs sourced directly by the client from Atkin & Thyme, featuring residential-style upholstery with button detailing at the back in a herringbone pattern and a contrasting tone. The tables feature Carrara marble tops with black, powder-coated steel disc bases.
The tea-to-go counter, which serves the tables, has a Corian front, featuring a delicate, routed-out East India Company pattern detail, plus a Carrara marble top with step-edge detailing, a brass framework and a black skirt at the base.
Photography: Kate Berry