Nestled away on 3 Brewer Street, in the heart of London’s lively Soho district, concept store Machine-A hosts an exciting selection of contemporary designs curated by founder and buying director, Stavros Karelis. His keen eye is well known for stocking some of London’s newest fashion talents alongside established brands, making the store a mecca for consumers and tourists alike.
Currently, it stocks 43 menswear and womenswear brands, as well as accessories and art pieces. Merchandise is stacked along two main racks that run the length of the store. Next to established brands like Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Maison Margiela and JW Anderson, sits some of the industry’s newest, and hottest names, Richard Quinn, Liam Hodges, Ashish, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Xander Zhou, Y/Project and Satan’s School for Girls.
Customer loyalty is engraved in the store’s reputation and what it stands for: the one-on-one connections customers have with the boutique and brands they stock. So, what makes Machina-A stand out in a city which boasts no shortage of niche boutiques and luxury stores, from Dover Street Market to Goodhood?
Machine-A is known for carrying many graduate collections straight out of university, in particular Central Saint Martins, and Karelis himself is a fixture at the graduate shows front rows. Karelis is advised by his business partner, and the store’s fashion director, stylist Anna Trevelyan, who oversees the shop’s overall visual and aesthetic.
“We always search for the best talent around us. It’s a completely different take and approach to everything that’s going on around us,” he explains. “It’s about what fits our aesthetic and the story that we want to tell as Machine-A.”
Karelis also reveals this year’s up-and-coming designers to watch from London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins, singling out Liam Johnson, and Deanna and Laura Fanning as his ones to watch. “The MA show was one of the strongest years coming out of CSM. I thought everything was really up to the point. It was very well executed with brilliant ideas,” he says.
Machine-A partnered with photographer Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio in 2015 to sell online in a pioneering e-commerce strategy. Machine-A is currently the only shop on the international fashion platform - a website dedicated to fashion films and broadcasting. Knight himself has lensed for fashion’s cutting edge youth culture editorials from Dazed and Confused, ID and The Face.
“We’re in a very close partnership with SHOWstudio, we work with them in terms of creative content,” Karelis explains. Capturing the Soho vibe of the store, SHOWstudio recreated an interactive 3D virtual experience where you can click through the rails, shop the looks, hear different stocked designers and stylists speak, and even take a selfie in the store’s mirror.
Recently, Karelis curated Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, Scandinavia's largest fashion trade show. The exhibition space brought together fashion and other creative disciplines in installations and special projects alongside branded collaborations. “We also work with other international retailers to be able to offer designers a bigger platform for their work,” Karelis outlines.
“Even though high street brands are the big powerful guys,” Karelis suggests, “I think that young designers always find a way to say, this is who I am, this is what I’m doing.” It is this sensibility which is perfectly tapped for the social media strategy.
PwC (2017) reports that now three out of four UK consumers interact with a retailer via social media, which has led to a near 40% increase in buying and brand endorsement. Machine-A’s own Instagram account, with nearly 40K followers, is a testament to the boutique’s far reaching international influence and hypebeast following.
With superleague followers including Naomi Campbell and Virgil Abloh, Karelis himself has become a street style star and influencer of taste, and, as a patron of emerging designers, he is key to the store’s success. In the tightly packed 700 square ft space, chances are you might be welcomed by the witty and easy talking greek founder holding court.
A regular on the fashion week circuit, he sits on the committee for Newgen - an initiative from the BFC that supports young designers in developing their business with the help of financial schemes. Karelis also judges the BFC’s International Fashion Showcase, a festival of emerging designers drawn from countries around the world, meaning he is at the very cutting edge of new talent globally.