Chris Kyvetos is the new Creative Director of Harrolds Luxury Department Store for Men on Collins Street. The recently reopened store is the new home to a host of celebrated and cult-followed men’s wear designers, taking the renowned first floor, classic tailoring selection criteria and applying it to their ground floor high fashion brands. It’s a successful mix; it remains masculine, but is a perfect solution for those not requiring the traditional nine to five wardrobe or who just want to add to it.
I managed to take five minutes with Chris to ask him a few questions about the store and the direction of men’s fashion and design.
JC: What have you done to the space during the closing of the store in preparation for the reopening?
CK: We gave the store a very simple makeover and opened up some more space downstairs to accommodate the growing line up of fashion collections. Upstairs we introduced a ‘smoking’ room where our clients can have a personalised experience when shopping for Black Tie.
Harrolds has a proud history of classic men’s dressing and you come from the (comparatively speaking) avant-garde world of fashion. How are you continuing and/or adding to the Harrolds experience and is there an olive branch extended between the two?
What we've basically done is extend the Harrolds experience. We apply the same selection criteria for brands on both floors [because] although the brands themselves are so different, their ideals, standards and approach to what they do are virtually identical. I've been of the opinion for some time now that the two worlds [high fashion and classic tailoring] are coming together. I guess this was best epitomised at Tranoi – the leading fashion fair in the world – in Paris last January, where Kiton, the artisan tailoring house from Napoli that we carry on the classic floor, was showing directly next to Isaac Sellam, the French leather designer we now carry on the ground floor. Two completely different collections based on exactly the same ideas.
Presumably these days it is mandatory to have some kind of online presence, but we still live in a physical world so being able to touch and see the product is still important – maybe even more so with the level of craftsmanship in your offerings. What do the designers do to appeal to both their physical and online retailers?
I think the designers themselves have just accepted that this is a new commercial world that we live in. The speed with which their work gets from the cutting table to the computer screen before it’s in the stores has, many would say, killed a lot of the romance in the process. So nowadays we are working closer than ever before with the designers to deliver a really intimate and well-informed experience for the final client. Having said all that, two weeks ago in New York Tom Ford launched his women’s collection in a private showing to a total media ban. The headlines read "Tom Ford, what did the internet ever do to you?" So I'd watch that space.
How do you work with and against technology? In other words, how do you keep it fresh for your customers when it has been explored/exploited all over the internet for six months prior to landing?
We work with technology, it informs all of us; we just find ourselves working more and more closely with the designers. Our staff are exceptionally well trained and above all we enjoy what we do, which allows us to deliver the experience in a very unique way.
Conversely, what relevance does retail have in today’s marketplace – particularly with international brands – and/or how do you make it so?
Retail is the total experience of the brand, or a collection of brands. In our lifetime it’s hard to see that changing.
So what takes your eye? How do you decide on a new designer? Obviously Harrolds exists and operates at a certain level, so presumably it has to tick that box, but outside of the more established labels, what do you look for?
I love looking for people who are doing things ‘with a bit of heart’. People who do things because in their world it matters that little bit more. I consider us very lucky to have the opportunity to work with such people.
What’s in store over the next 12 months for the store/business?
We'll continue on our way. We have some nice things lined up for the next 12 months and we'll be working with our favorite local designers on various projects. And let’s just say technology will keep everyone in loop…
If there were one thing to pick up from the current season, what would you recommend?
Raf Simons sunglasses. They're amazing and it means summer must be coming.