Machine-A’s Stavros Karelis On The Next Chapter of London’s Shining Retail Gem
Since launching his concept store Machine-A in 2013, Stavros Karelis has been on the forefront of the retail evolution by keeping his focus on celebrating emerging talent. As this unique fashion concept store joins Agency Eleven, Stavros talks us through the challenges of the past year and the plans for the bright days ahead.
If there is one aspect of the fashion industry that has been hit by the ongoing global pandemic the most, it’s the retail landscape. Not only has the need for luxury fashion been challenged, but the ever changing regulations have put increasing pressure on the businesses that rely on bricks and mortar. Amid all this pain though, Machine-A has had a pretty exciting year. Best known as the cult Soho shopping spot overflowing with an eclectic mix of the most exciting brands curated by a tight team headed by its founder Stavros Karelis, the store was given a push into the future. Tomorrow, the multi-faceted brand agency working as a development hub for independent brands, acquired a majority stake in the business. As part of this evolution, ex-Tomorrow Digital Chief Office Alessandra Rossi joined as the CEO and Giovanni DeMarchi became the Brand Strategist, while Stavros remained in his role as the buying director. “We have a common ground in terms of how we work with emerging designers and how we support them in the best possible way,” explains Stavros. He notes that this partnership was an opportunity to extend the reach and impression of Machine-A into new territories while elevating individual aspects like events, pop-ups and new ways of connecting with both brands and customers. In turn, this investment marks the next step of Tomorrow’s direct foray into retail, customer engagement & e-com.
“This past year has been a challenge in so many ways. Everything has changed. But at the same time, you’re still dealing with the same situations – fashion, retail, online and sales. It’s now about understanding how you can become better and evolve out of this process.” he says in his cheerful voice. Having started as a business with a dual presence that married both physical and digital stories, Stavros was always looking beyond the expected. One thing that always stood out about Machine-A in the market of niche concept stores is the community aspect that surrounded the brand. “For us, that’s a crucial element to a successful business – to be able to engage with your audience internationally and have people that are interested in what you do,” Stavros shares. The dedicated following that has developed over the years was not only excited about the brands that were represented, but also the way they were shown.
Launching in partnership with Showstudio, Stavros worked with photographer Nick Knight and his team in creating stories that were beautiful, engaging and informative. “The key part of what we do has always been the merchandising, selection of designers and emerging brands we choose to work with. But at the same time, it was about making sure we create a physical or virtual space where everyone feels welcome, easy to navigate and happy to interact with while finding something they couldn’t find elsewhere,” says Stavros.
Now looking to take this notion further, he notes how the digital storytelling of retail is becoming increasingly important. “Just from an e-com and online perspective, but also in terms of how to make it much more inclusive, interesting, interactive and sustainable, in many ways.” During this past London Fashion Week in February, Machine-A worked with the Institute of Digital Fashion on a project that explored the collections by the designers stocked at the store via implementing augmented reality and VR into the context of retail. “Even though the physical store became a really interactive space and established a community in Soho, we always tried to translate it into the digital world as well. Experimenting with films and the way we introduce new designers, projects or products – this was always done online. From a commercial point of view, COVID-19 pushed us even further to define our e-commerce and create all these beautiful feelings that we had in the physical space.”
This month, Machine-A is joining Agency Eleven as a client. “We’ve never had a PR before so you can imagine how excited I am about this. It was a big step,” says Stavros. This connection has also been brewing for years. From being an early stockist of designers like Xander Zhou, Liam Hodges, Pronounce and Martine Rose to hosting Per Götesson’s AW18 presentation, Machine-A and Agency Eleven have developed a strong partnership throughout the years. “I’m so glad we’re working together because we have the same values and we’re talking to the same community of people. I can only imagine great things we can both achieve together,” Stavros goes on.
Looking to those days ahead, he is feeling optimistic. As the business continues its infiltration into the digital sphere and hopes to reopen its flagship spot soon, Stavros vows to continue pushing for change and trying new things. “This year has two ways of looking at it. It could affect you in a way where you could either stand still or evolve through this process. Choosing the second might not be easy but it’s the only way to be able to move ahead. As much as it has been a tough year, it has also been a great one for me to learn so many more things about myself, the business, the people around me… I probably never would if it wasn’t for this past year.”
You can shop Martine Rose, Pronounce, Per Götesson, Xander Zhou and more at machine-a.com