For the first time in its 83 year history, luxury department The Room at Hudson’s Bay is carrying menswear in addition to a vast assortment of womenswear. The menswear collection recently launched in the renovated Vancouver The Room department with a point-of-view tailored to the Vancouver market.
VANCOUVER’S HUDSON BAY’S ‘THE ROOM’ FIRST TO CARRY MENSWEAR
“Discovery is at the core of The Room,” says Tyler Franch, VP, Fashion Director, Hudson’s Bay. “We have curated the collections to appeal specifically to the Vancouver market, while still highlighting The Room’s unique point-of-view; one that’s more forward-thinking and conceptual, with a strong representation of each designer’s brand DNA.”
Franch said in an interview that he’d toured retail concepts globally in places such as the UK, France, and South Korea and brought some of what inspired him to The Room at Hudson’s Bay. That included renovating the Vancouver space by creating a bold metallic environment including metal tread flooring, silver walls and ceilings. The ‘clinical look’ is meant to showcase the product and is unlike any retail space in Canada.
The Room, located on the second-floor of the Vancouver Hudson’s Bay store, is “retail theatre’ that is “elevated through visually-impactful storytelling moments like limited-time concept spaces, photo-worthy installations, and exciting pop-ups”, according to Franch. The first pop-up is a 10-brand South Korean designer showcase, featuring emerging brands, KUHO, Low Classic, Andersson Bell, and, exclusive to The Room, Yuul Yie. Overall The Room is intended to be an “Instagram-worthy” experience for visitors and the layout also allows for flexibility where things can be changed to keep shoppers coming back.
Franch brought menswear into The Room in Vancouver for the fist time to attract an expanded demographic into the 13,700-square-foot retail space which recently saw a renovation after its opening in 2011. New luxury menswear brands at The Room Vancouver include Balmain, Junya Watanabe, Moschino, Ann Demeulemeester, DSquared2, Vetments, ALYX, Marni, Maison Margiela, Lanvin, Solid Homme, J.W. Anderson, and others.
“Vancouver was a major opportunity with a strong designer business,” according to Franch, who curated a localized assortment of brands for the Vancouver market. Men’s advanced contemporary brands as well as luxury brands are found at The Room in Vancouver, allowing for a broader price-point in an effort to attract shoppers. Some of the brands at The Room in Vancouver are not available elsewhere in Canada or even North America.
CONTEMPORARY & LUXURY MEN’S BRANDS AVAILABLE AT ‘THE ROOM’ ALLOWING FOR BROAD PRICE-POINT
Brands exclusive to The Room at Hudson’s Bay in Vancouver include apparel brands Act n°1, Anais Jourdan, Arizona Love, Awake Mode, Baum Und Pferdgarten, CASC8, Danielle Guizio, Deadwood, F_WD, Gauge81, Les Coyotes De Paris, Olivia Rubin, and Yuul Yie. Exclusive footwear brands include Chloe Gosselin, Kalda, Magda Butrym, Midnight 00, Nicole Saldana, Pwenille x Gia Couture, Rejina Pyo, and Superga x Mary K. Exclusive handbag brands include Ganni, Osoi, Rejina Pyo, and The Volon.
The Room in Vancouver is a substantially different experience than what one finds in The Room in Toronto, which relocated to the west side of the Hudson’s Bay flagship store on Queen Street in 2016 after a grand relaunch in 2009. The Room in Toronto is a larger space and currently only carries women’s fashions. Some of the gowns in the Toronto store surpass $15,000 each. The assortment of brands in the Toronto location is somewhat different than what’s found in Vancouver. Franch noted that the Vancouver market dresses differently than Toronto and brands were picked accordingly — and the Vancouver store was first to see the new Room renovation because of the adventurous fashion consumer in Vancouver seeking ‘novelty’.
The Room in Toronto is expected to see updates as well according to Franch, though at the moment menswear won’t be moving in. The fifth floor of the Hudson’s Bay flagship in Toronto features a men’s designer area with several of the same designers carried at The Room in Vancouver such as Balmain, Moschino, J.W. Anderson, Vetments and others. The upscale Toronto men’s department lacks the edgy aesthetics found at The Room in Vancouver however.
The Hudson’s Bay website has also expanded to include more pieces from The Room. That includes women’s apparel and some footwear styles. Franch said that the website would be expanded and ‘elevated’ further in the spring of 2021.
MONTREAL WOULD BE OBVIOUS CHOICE FOR NEXT ‘THE ROOM’ DEPARTMENT
Other Hudson’s Bay stores could also be in line for The Room departments, though Franch wouldn’t confirm anything during the interview. Montreal would be an obvious choice given the size of the city, and the downtown Montreal Bay store is said to be getting a substantial renovation which will include downsizing the store to about 250,000 square feet over three levels from its current 655,000-square-foot footprint.
High-end retail competition in downtown Vancouver is fierce, and the stakes are high. In recent years, Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom have expanded their designer offerings which have taken a bite out of sales at Vancouver’s Hudson’s Bay. Nordstrom opened its luxury-heavy Vancouver flagship store in September of 2015 across the street at CF Pacific Centre in a building once occupied by Eaton’s. At the same time, Holt Renfrew expanded its Vancouver store to more than 190,000 square feet to carry many of the world’s leading luxury brands in a hybrid concession model. Brands themselves have been opening standalone stores in Vancouver when not being carried in multi-brand retailers. The Room will also likely see a boost when luxury multi-brand retailer Leone closes its doors forever this fall.
Franch explained that The Room’s assortment in Vancouver features fewer ‘first-line’ designers such as Gucci and Prada. That could give Hudson’s Bay an edge in attracting customers seeking something not available elsewhere.
The current location of The Room in Vancouver was unveiled in September of 2011 on the store’s second floor — the beautiful space launched with a splashy opening party and carried brands that included Mary Katrantzou, Erdem, Balmain, Roland Mouret, DSquared2, Alaia, and others. Former Hudson’s Bay Company VP Nicholas Mellamphy was the brainchild of The Room’s relaunch which began with an overhaul of The Room at Toronto’s Hudson’s Bay flagship on Queen Street in the fall of 2009. In 2013, the Hudson’s Bay Company planned to launch The Room at its downtown Montreal Bay flagship store as well as at the former Lord & Taylor store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, though neither materialized. Mellamphy operated and bought collections for The Room until his departure from the Hudson’s Bay Company in early 2016.
‘THE ROOM’ CONCEPT BEGAN 83 YEARS AGO IN TORONTO’S QUEEN STREET SIMPSON’S FLAGSHIP STORE
The Room’s history at the Queen Street Hudson’s Bay flagship spans more than 83 years. Until 1991, the Queen Street building was branded as a Simpson’s department store that in years past was a chain operating in several markets across the country. The luxurious St. Regis Room at Simpson’s carried some of the world’s leading luxury couture brands over the years, catering to Toronto’s carriage trade. Marjory Steele joined The St. Regis Room as a buyer’s assistant in 1962 and became the couture buyer in 1971, followed by Director in 1984. She brought in many new collections from global designers and was called the ‘first lady of fashion’ until her death in 1999.
The St. Regis Room concept at one time operated in Simpson’s stores in Toronto, Ottawa, London, Halifax, and Regina. In Montreal, the Salon Vendome department operated in parallel as part of the legacy of the Morgan’s store which once occupied the Ste-Catherine Street building.
In Vancouver in 1998, the Hudson’s Bay Company introduced a St. Regis Room department to the northwest corner of the store’s third floor — it was only the second St. Regis Room department for a Bay store at the time. Designers in the Vancouver St. Regis Room included Thierry Mugler, State of Claude Montana, Ungaro Collection, Yves Saint Laurent Encore, Oscar de la Renta, Jean Muir, and others. The Room ultimately wasn’t successful in Vancouver and was shut down in the early 2000s. Vancouver was a different city in many ways in the late 1990s and today it has a much bigger fashion market, particularly because of a growing brand conscious Asian demographic.
The Hudson’s Bay building in Vancouver has a long history of carrying women’s luxury fashion brands, and was the first store to introduce high-end shopping to Vancouver. In 1948, the Vancouver store’s upscale department ‘The Mirror Room’ opened featuring some of the world’s leading luxury brands at the time. That included names such as Schiaparelli, Balmain, Balenciaga, and Christian Dior. Competitor Eaton’s, then located on West Hastings Street, introduced high-end brands in its ‘French Room’ in 1950 including the likes of Balmain, Jacques Fath, Lanvin, and Balenciaga.
In the fall of 1972, the Mirror Room relaunched at the Vancouver’s Bay store with boutique spaces for brands Lanvin, Ungaro and Givenchy. The Givenchy Nouvelle Boutique, according to newspaper reports at the time, featured branded carpeting with the ‘HG’ logo. Other brands carried in the Mirror Room included Jean Patou.
In the 1980s, the Vancouver Mirror Room housed brands such as Missoni, Jean Claude Poitras, Krizia, Aquascutum, and in 1991 a Mr. Jax boutique opened which signalled a lower price point than in years past. Competitor Eaton’s, again, went on the offensive by stocking brands such as Escada, Kenzo, Tiktiner, and Sonia Rykiel in the 1980s. The small Holt Renfrew store at CF Pacific Centre also brought in competing brands, as did several multi-brand retailers that operated in Vancouver in years past.
Between 1985 and 1988, Hudson’s Bay also operated a Gucci accessory boutique on the main floor of the Vancouver store. Upscale menswear designers were also carried in the store’s ‘Hudson Room’ department. Browns Shoes once operated leased spaces for women and men within the Vancouver store with some upscale brands such as Manolo Blahnik and Bally of Switzerland.
The Room’s update in Vancouver will aim to draw shoppers from competitors Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew, both of which have seen considerable success in Vancouver. The Vancouver Holt Renfrew store at CF Pacific Centre was the top performer in the chain for the past several years, and the Nordstrom store in the same mall was also the company’s top performer until at least last year. Affluent shoppers visiting Vancouver’s Hudson’s Bay store will also likely shop in other departments such as the main floor handbag hall featuring upscale brands such as Coach and Kate Spade, as well as the fifth floor men’s store housing several notable upscale brands. The overall retail design and brand matrix of The Room at Hudson’s Bay in Vancouver will make it a destination for visitors from Vancouver and beyond. Franch said that he and his team will be continuing to innovate in Vancouver as well as in the Toronto store — it will be interesting to see what happens next next to The Room concept at Hudson’s Bay.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org
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