MACHINE-A is the cult retail spot at the heart of London's Soho, renowned for championing fashion talent old and new. Their on-going Graduate Project - which recently spotlit innovator Olivia Rubens - supports designers from the ground up, stocking them alongside hero brands including Rick Owens, Comme des Garçons, Mugler and Raf Simons, plus Martine Rose, Bianca Saunders, 1017 ALYX 9SM, Goomheo, Peter Do, Y/PROJECT and more.
Founded in 2009 by Stavros Karelis, MACHINE-A continues to be a pioneering force in the London retail space, even launching a virtual space during London Fashion Week and hosting a Shanghai pop-up. With the Tomorrow group accquiring a stake late last year, MACHINE-A continue to evolve, only getting bigger and better. Now, they're strengthening their ties with the Chinese market, launching a store in Shanghai.
Karelis envisions the new space in China as a concrete extension of MACHINE-A‘s pre-existing Chinese community. 'For me, it's almost a natural step for MACHINE-A to open the first international store outside of the UK in Shanghai. I want it to be perceived as an appreciation of the support our Chinese audience has shown all these years.' Launching on WeChat Pay and Alipay in 2018, together with accounts on WeChat and RED - all prominent platforms in China - MACHINE-A has long been engaging with both their Chinese community based in, or travelling to, London, but also with the designers they have championed. A physical presence in the region will allow for MACHINE-A to expand their roster and seek out local talent.
'A beautiful part of co-existing in a market, especially with what we do, is about supporting emerging talents. The more retailers that we get behind an emerging brand, the more chances that the brand has to become successful. I believe that there is great potential synergies with a lot of different places todo something truly special', Karelis explained.
Anyone who has spotted Karelis at fashion week, will know he is a noteworthy Raf Simons collector - a brand which has long-held ties to MACHINE-A. Earlier this year, Simons launched key pieces from their archive with the store as part of a special project in partnership with Byronesque.
Belgian Simons is one of the most important fashion designers working today, founding his namesake label in 1995 and taking to the helm of Prada as co-creative director in 2020. Simons fans find constant inspiration in his delving into youth subcultures, music and art, making him a suitable neighbour for MACHINE-A's new store on Yuyao Road in the Jing'an District. The separate Raf Simons store, designed by collaborator Glenn Sestig, will mark the first ever direct-to-consumer location in China for Raf Simons, who is a hot topic of discussion on WeChat.
'The relationship between MACHINE-A and Raf Simons was based on mutual respect and challenging each other. Over the years, it just kept on improving and improving...We too have a huge fanbase in China. Stavros is not the kind of person who likes collections based on commercial pieces. A selection for MACHINE-A is different...The feedback we will be getting once the store is open will be super valuable for us to better understand the Chinese market', Bianca Quets Luzi, chief executive officer at Raf Simons, told press.