MACHINE-A is known around London for harvesting young talent. The team often visits the graduate shows of leading English universities and invites young designers for follow-up meetings. Buying Director Stavros Karelis spoke to us about the concept behind MACHINE-A, the process of choosing new designers for the store, and why London is the most exciting fashion city in the world.
Interview by Robin Reetz
We Are The Market: MACHINE-A is a bit of an institution in London. Tell us about the history of the store.
Stavros Karelis: MACHINE-A was first launched as a concept store in 2008. The main idea was to create a space that would bring creatives together to collaborate on different projects, but mainly to feature the collections of graduates and emerging designers. You could see amazing collections on the catwalks but you weren't able to buy them anywhere. I thought to create a space that would allow people to access these designers and become familiar with less-known brands.
WATM: MACHINE-A originally existed under the name Digitaria a few blocks from where the store currently stands now. What made you decide to change the location, name, and general vibe of the store?
SK: Location wise we remained in Soho, which I love. Its such a vibrant area and the crowd is so diverse that it brings a breath of fresh air. People tend to be more relaxed and fun when they come to Soho and that creates a very colorful environment. For me it was always Soho.
As far as the concept of the store, MACHINE-A is more directional, selective, and focused with a great mixture of brands. Customers can find all the latest trends under one roof, which makes it financially successful as well. The previous store, even though it was very creative and imaginative, was quite raw. I think this is a more grown up shop.
Weve managed to create an environment where people from many different backgrounds and generations can find something that they want to buy. Overall our beliefs have remained the same: to support the emerging talent.
WATM: You're known for carrying both younger and independent designers, some of which are exclusive to MACHINE-A. What's the process for finding new designers? Is there anything in particular you look for?
SK: It is a very long carefully planned process to make our final selection when we decide the graduates. Normally we will search all the graduate shows and once we decide who we like, we invite them for a meeting with the team which includes Anna Trevelyan, the Fashion Director of the Store, and Ella Dror and Ash Smith of Ella Dror PR.
We sit together with the graduates and discuss their portfolios and collections. Then the four of us start agreeing and disagreeing until we come to a conclusion.
WATM: Is there anything you look for in a new designer?
SK: I look for designers that are talented, [who are] not afraid to challenge and be challenged, but with a great quality and ethos. I want to see a designer that really wants to be in the store, is aware of the retail environment, ready for production and will respect time schedules. All these elements are very difficult to find in one person but when you find this person, the feeling is very fulfilling.
WATM: What do you find the most exciting about the London fashion scene?
SK: Everything is exciting in London fashion scene. Its very creative, and I strongly believe that London creates the trends worldwide. If you belong to the fashion industry, there are many places to get your inspiration from, but London is number one. The most exciting element for me personally is the focus on the emerging talent, which is unique worldwide.
MACHINE-As ecommerce launches this month.
Robin Reetz is writer based in England. You can find more of her work here on her blog, Second Floor Flat.
MACHINE-A 13 Brewer Street Soho, London Mon-Sat 11am-7pm; Sun - 12pm-6pm +44 (0)20 7734 4334