Online sunglasses brand For Art's Sake sees physical stores as key to its future

Trendy eyewear brand For Art’s Sake (FAS) has made its first foray into high street retail. Just three years old, the brand already has more than 550 stockists worldwide, including Harvey Nichols, Net-A-Porter, and Chinese retailer Lane Crawford.

In January, it opened a store in Covent Garden’s piazza followed by a second in Shanghai’s Xiantiandi shopping centre. Interiors for both, and for planned future stores, are by emerging London-based ALEKSA Studio.

Xiwen Zhang, creative director of London-based FAS, explains the thinking behind going into stand-alone retail: “We want a better customer experience, and so it’s important to have our own locations in cities around the world.”

Zhang briefed ALEKSA Studio director, Aleksa Rizova, to create an environment that reflects the packaging and the product. The pastel blue velvet-style finish on the sunglasses cases and the polished brass of their frames. And in Covent Garden, Rizova was also tasked with fitting the 250-strong range comfortably into a 24m2 space which has not just one but two entrances.

Rizova’s solution was to install shiny brass arched fins across the ceiling, and to give the display units brass reveals. Meanwhile, the walls are covered in fluted blue velvet, creating a solid curtain-like effect. “We wanted to give the idea of tactile materials,” says Rizova. The product is arranged on high gloss white timber shelves, and the bases of the units store another three pairs of each design on display. 

Carefully-angled mirrors are intended to make the space feel bigger.

FAS glasses rose to prominence on social media and have furnished the noses of high-profile people including singer Beyoncé, entrepreneur Olivia Palermo, model and actress Poppy Delevingne and fashion blogger Aimee Song.

“We wanted the shop to be instagrammable, to create a conversation across social media platforms,” says Rizova, whose studio has recently refurbished a restaurant in London’s Natural History Museum. Hence the selfie spot: a big mirror carrying the text ‘You Glow Girl’.

The Covent Garden store is aimed at new customers – both tourists and locals. “We see this shop as a discovery,” says Zhang, adding that the sell-through rate already is very good – though she declines to reveal figures. Currently 85% of FAS’s business is from wholesale and 15% is online. Zhang’s target is to grow FAS’s own store sales to account for 40%-50% of total turnover in a year’s time. “It’s a massive part of brand development in the next two years,” she says. Zhang and FAS founder and CEO Yannis Makridis are in talks to open in Taiwan, and hope to follow with Miami, all using the same design.

She admits that retail is perceived as risky, but adds: “It feels really good to be a retailer, I see a lot of opportunities. I think that by having our own retail channels, we can completely control the customer experience.”