The East India Company, the contemporary revitalisation of one of history’s most powerful and successful trading ventures, has opened a flagship storeon Edinburgh’s George Street, the Scottish capital’s most prestigious shopping address, with all design work by leading British studio Kinnersley Kent Design. The new East India Company store, its first ever in Scotland, will offer the brand’s premium luxury fine foods range, as per its eleven existing stores across Greater London, Kent and the Middle East (plusconcessions in Harrods and HeathrowT4/T5), as well as its new East India Company ‘Home’ range, representing a first foray into the lifestyle market andalso now available in the brand’sLondon flagship store in the heart of Mayfair, recently refurbished by Kinnersley Kent Design. The new Scottish store also features several unique new elements, including decorative and narrative elements which refer tothe company’s historic activities in Scotland, as well as the launch of an integrated F&B offer within an East India Companystore - for the first time ever. The Edinburgh store formsjust part of the ongoing projects being developedby The East India Company, together with the Kinnersley Kent Design team, rangingfrom branding, graphics and packaging work (includingthe packaging for the new chocolate range in 2015, for example) 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’, explainedMick Kent, Partner at Kinnersley Kent Design, ‘introducing a lighter materials palette and a more ‘joyful’, fresher and celebratory feel for the store interiors. 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 East India Company Store, Edinburgh – Design Walk-through: Building, Storefront and Signage: 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’ eyesthrough to the back of the store. The six-storey 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 TheEast India Company, it played host to an optician’s business. The new, 1,180 sqft scheme (within an overall ground floor floorplate of 1,600 sqft) features almost half as much retail floorspace again as the previous occupant. The storefront itself is made up of dark-stained timber andbronze-coloured, powder-coated metal, with a black overlay housing the polished brass storefrontlettering, 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 featurea patterned window vinyl, taken from the family of patterns that make up TheEast India Companybrand 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 thegold outlines of historic company ships against a red textile background, with cartographic rhumb lines charting theships’ onetime navigational paths.The company’scoat 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 anddrawing the eye through. Asimple timeline graphic to its right, by the cash desk,displays key moments from TheEast India Company’s Scottish heritage story and is set within a thin brass frame. Space-plan and Merchandising: The arrangement of the store allows for the new premium ‘Home’offer at the rear (featuringexquisite new ranges of bone china and silverware)to be displayed in a series of brass-framed glass cabinets, with the fine foods offer (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 ChairmanSanjiv 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 teasison 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 antiquedmirror 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 andBenjarongbonechina, created as a bespoke line for TheEast India Company. Ceiling: Thedramatic ceiling within the store is made up of a series of suspended panelsin madder red, which featurea 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 surroundingstepped detail, typical of Georgian-era buildings, at the ceiling edges. New F&B Offer: 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. Allthree 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, whilstwall-mounted lighting within the niches is by CTO Lighting. Two different kinds of chairs wereused 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 twochairs sourced directly by the client from Atkin & Thyme, featuringresidential-style upholstery with button detailing at the back in a herringbone pattern anda 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 Companypattern detail, plus a Carrara marble top with step-edge detailing, a brass framework and a black skirt at the base. Scottish Narratives within the store: The three stories from the rich historical tapestry of The East India Company, chosen to star as design features for this first Scottish store and making the links between Scotland and the company, are: Paisley: The paisley pattern has a very long history, starting in Indo-European cultures over 2,000 years ago. Although its usage faded in Europe during the time of the Roman Empire, the motif continued to be popular in India and was most often used in Kashmir in the design of shawls. In the mid-18th century, examples of these shawls arrived in the UK, thanks to The East India Company. They were immediately popular, though scarce and expensive. The demand quickly led to their direct manufacture in Britain, especially in Scotland (Paisley and Edinburgh)and ‘paisley’ soon became world-renowned. Robert Fortune: A native of Berwickshire, Robert Fortune was abotanist, plant hunter and traveler, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India.He was employed in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and later in the Horticultural Society of London's garden at Chiswick. Following the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, Fortune was sent out by the Horticultural Society to collect plants in China. His travels resulted in the introduction of many new, exotic, beautiful flowers and plants. His most famous accomplishment was the successful transportation of tea from China to India in 1848 on behalf of The East India Company, enabling the company to manufacture tea throughout the world. India still remains one of the world’s largest tea producers. Jute: Jute was grown and cultivated in India and traditionally used for ropes and baskets. When it was discovered in the 1830s that jute could be treated and softened with whale oil, a by-product of Dundee’s whaling industry, this allowed for vast quantities of jute fibre to be spun, which, in turn, established Dundee as acentre for the jute industry. Jute, known as ‘The Golden Fibre’ for its colour, continued to be importedto Dundee by The East India Company, until, at its height, Dundee had around 60 dedicated jute mills, which provided employment for over 50,000 local people.