Where the Rubber Hits the Catwalk

British boot brand Hunter’s London flagship elevates its Wellies from high function to high fashion
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Posted May 4, 2015

Founded in Scotland in 1856 under the original moniker North British Rubber Co., and granted two Royal Warrants in the 20th Century, heritage British brand Hunter (Edinburgh, U.K.) is renowned for its rubber “Wellies,” boots initially sported by farmers, soldiers and hunters, now beloved by festivalgoers and fashionistas alike. 

Recently, design studio Checkland Kindleysides (Leicester, U.K.) was not only challenged to develop a store prototype on London’s Regent Street that would be emulated at future Tokyo and New York flagships – but also the first standalone shop in the company’s history.

Today, Hunter is transforming its identity through the vision of its creative director, Alasdhair Willis (aka Mr. Stella McCartney). During London Fashion Week last November, his innovative autumn/winter 2014 outerwear, bags and accessory collections made a splash at the company’s inaugural catwalk show – perfectly orchestrated to coincide with the opening of the Regent Street flagship. 

The sensorial immersion designed by Checkland Kindleysides for Hunter’s debut store reflects the brand’s stylish new direction while celebrating its legacy. With the cheerful vibe of a sunny countryside, the interiors interpret the brief from Hunter to bring the rural environment into the city. “Our challenge was to carefully distill Hunter’s heritage, ethos and utilitarian roots and reimagine these in a fresh, contemporary way,” explains Joe Evans, creative director of Checkland Kindleysides.

Minimalistic fixtures and lighting techniques produce defined product silhouettes, while visual and audio techniques create a harmonious bridge between the three levels, including an AstroTurf-lined elevator that plays sounds from nature, and a tall, backlit faux gabion wall located adjacent to an industrial stairway with a 16-foot digital screen that broadcasts dynamic curated content.

“I’m really proud of the entire store experience,” Willis says, “and particularly how sounds of the countryside and birdsong in the changing rooms transport customers from the hectic bustle of Regent Street to the calmer surrounds of the great British outdoors.”

Focal points in the shop’s three stories create distinct pastoral worlds that encourage exploration by Hunter’s diverse global fan base. Puddle-shaped product displays; a red “barn” with headphones to enjoy music while trying on shoes; boot rooms clad with timber slats and galvanized metal; coffee tables with digital tops and a shape inspired by deep “Belfast” sinks used for washing muddy footwear; and fabric lightbox greenery displays all define the ground- and first-floor layouts.

Here, Hunter Originals selections like multi-hued Wellies, bags, plimsolls, high-heeled rain shoes and fringed rubber cowboy boots cater to urbanites. On the first floor, snow boots and gardening clogs from the Hunter Field line, launched in February, provide practical alternatives, while the basement showcases an array of vibrant kids’ boots.

Carefully considered materials and palettes reflect Hunter’s DNA. Red rubberized paint on the barn and fitting room doors recalls the brand’s original livery and most popular boot coloration, while vivid green references its Field collection. The entrance’s handmade terracotta and white floor tiles suggest earthy barn floors and the chevron pattern of Hunter boot soles. Gray-toned Douglas fir barn rafters, plus the cashwrap and floors in concrete resin, strengthen its contemporary feel. 

Evans sums up the conception: “Our design fuses rural architecture with raw, urban aesthetics to create a celebration of the outdoors instilled with discovery, fun, adventure and British eccentricity.”

PROJECT SUPPLIERS

Retailer
Hunter, London: Alasdhair Willis, creative director.

Design and Architecture, Fixtures, Furniture
Checkland Kindleysides, Leicester, U.K.: Jeff Kindleysides & Joe Evans, design team; Cuong Phan & Hannah Burrows, design development; Henry Barnes, client director; Karen Robertson, project management; Dean Bayley & Gareth Buckle, production management.

General Contractor
Oakwoods, Andover, U.K.

Audio/Visual Consultant
Marquee AV Ltd., Egham, U.K.

Lighting Consultant
Optelma Lighting Ltd., Abingdon, U.K.

Signage/Graphics
Scanlite Visual Communications, Blackpool, U.K.

Flooring
Tiling: Marrakech Design, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Red Rubber Flooring: Dalhaus Ltd., Bridgwater, U.K.
Concrete Resin: F. Ball and Co. Ltd., Leek, U.K.

Photography
Keith Parry, London