Today, Swedish retailer COS opens in Melbourne. Its store in the Strand is the brand’s first in Australia and the first in the Southern Hemisphere.
COS (Collection of Style) is a clothing label synonymous with a clean, modern Scandinavian aesthetic. It sells luxe designer pieces without the associated price tag and is often touted as the more up-market, more sophisticated sibling of global retailer H&M, which opened in Melbourne in April.
Launched in the UK in 2006 as a men’s and women’s line, COS currently operates across Europe and Asia and has since launched a kids range. In April this year COS opened in the US (with a store in Beverly Hills in LA, and there will soon be one in New York’s Soho). Now, with more than 80 stores worldwide – including recent openings in Korea, Seoul and Paris – it has finally hit Australia.
“The closest stores we have are Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea, so they will work closely together to support each other,” says COS managing director Marie Honda when we visit the pristine Melbourne store two days before it opens. Honda is in Australia for the launch with a small team that has come across with her from the 150-employee-strong London headquarters. She explains that her role is to oversee all functions within COS, working closely with designers, pattern cutters, buyers, sales, online, operations and interiors teams.
“For us it’s important that in each and every market we have the same collection,” says Stockholm-born Honda, in a thick Scandinavian accent. “So at the moment, in 24 different countries, we have the same collection. And coming here we wanted to do the same.”
In store from today, COS will launch its spring/summer 14 collection with bold shapes and soft colours in iridescent silk nylons and perfect papery white poplin. Shape is key with cocooning dresses, capped sleeves and subtle racer armholes that give a sporty feel. Ripple effect T-shirt dresses with kimono sleeves and an A-line denim dress feature for women, teamed with ankle-strap heels or platform sandals.
For men (which takes up 30 per cent of the floor space), outerwear remains an important element and shirts are kept simple.
“Oh, for the love of the white shirt,” says Honda about some of her favourites pieces in the collection. “We have a new take on the white shirt, then another take on it is the shirt dress. This style is just so easy to combine,” she says as we walk through the store around the iconic COS clothing-rack rail system. It’s a design feature fitted to each boutique that creates small rooms within the store to keep the space open, while encouraging the customer to wonder seamlessly from one section to the next.
For its Australian store, COS has found a prime position in the newly opened Strand shopping centre on Elizabeth Street in the city. The store’s walls are glass windows so passers-by can see in from the street. Honda explains that location is very important for the brand and that they have been working on the space for some time now, having announced the launch in February.
Despite a looming calm-before-the-storm feeling when we visit on the eve of the opening, there is an air of excitement as shop assistants race around filling racks with new garments before the crowds flock. The demure Honda explains she is eager to meet customers and gauge this new market. “For us as a brand, the key aesthetic is the design and quality and attention to details is always there. We’re always working on more things that we want to consider for the customer.”
One of those things is that fact that physical store comes before online for the brand, having launched online shopping in Europe in 2011, and only just this year the US. True to its format, COS will start with just a physical store in Australia for now. “We’re really focussing on the launch of the Melbourne store at the moment,” Honda tells, keeping a tight lip on future plans for any other executions down under.
COS officially opens at 12pm on Friday November 28.
The Strand Melbourne
Corner of Little Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, CBD
Sun to Wed 10am-7pm
Thur & Fri 10am-9pm