"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
Renascence is bringing fashion Renaissance to the South Kensington and Chelsea area. read as i talk to the owner Gary Liu and find out what this independent luxury fashion boutique has to offer.
Luxury fashion is in the air of South Kensington and Chelsea—it’s worn by the passersby on the streets, it’s on display in galleries and museums, it’s in the windows of boutiques. With many high fashion flagship stores, independent designer shops and boutiques scattered all around the area, it may seem like the market is saturated. But Gary Liu, with his perceptive eye for fashion and ambition to turn his passion into something successful, opened his designer outlet store Renascence in Chelsea at the start of 2017.
As you walk into the bright space of Renascence, you won’t feel overwhelmed by the extravagance that fashion boutiques often send forth. Instead, the luxury is understated and the overall shopping vibe is easy yet elegant. And then the shop owner Gary and his tame dog Mao-qiu (“flurry ball” in Mandarin) come greet you.
Gary Liu is a Central Saint Martins fashion design graduate originally from Taiwan, he graduated realising that designing isn’t his niche but was determined to find his place in the fashion world, so he went into retailing. “I’ve always wanted to be my own boss,” says Liu, recalling the process of starting up his first store in Shoreditch. Not wanting to add to the manufacturing side of fashion, he found his perfect match: “I love the idea of selling what’s already been made. Rather than always manufacturing new products, I can curate what I want to feature and bring back items that either went unnoticed or were off the market too soon.”
It’s true—unlike other fashion boutiques with on-season high fashion trend items flaunting in the display windows, many past-season clothes and accessories are revived through Liu’s curation. Because these garments come to him in waves, he isn’t pressured to source clothes that he doesn’t truly love, and is in fact able to bring in clothes based on his own preferences and mood (“If the weather had been dark and gloomy, I would put bright and up-lifting colours in the window”) and introduce lesser-known designer brands to the area.
The freedom to put together his own “collection” on his own terms, according to Liu, is the best part of his job. Another fun part of the job is the store design. For example, to give the store a touch of personal aesthetic, he decorated the interiors with crystal Gauge vases in collaboration with the award-winning designer ROKOS.
However, this is a guy whose life is heavily based in Camden and opened his first store in East London years ago we’re talking about, so why the sudden change to an area he isn’t particularly familiar with? “What I’m doing is basically luxury off-season clearance,” explains Liu, what he is selling is already relatively cheap, but as Renascence grows bigger and starts to deal with more high-end customers, the prices go up naturally. “so as time goes on, I can’t sell those stuff anymore in Shoreditch, and I knew it’s time I expand the store to West London.”
Settling down his new business in west London has been a learning experience for him. A few interesting observation has been made: South Kensington women keep their style classy and they really have respect for luxury fashion. They buy the dress because they like the design and the quality, the fact that the it costs £1000 rarely concerns them (obviously it’s because they’ve got the money not to care about it). Customers are either going to yoga or coming back from yoga, many with a Stella McCartney sports bag or a Prada purse. “Oh, and they love Alaïa,” adds Liu.
A little stardust has already sprinkled over this independent boutique. Luma Grothe, the face of Paco Robanne, has bought from him quite a few times. “This shop in west London is still relatively new, so apart from South Kensington girls playing fashion police to each other, nothing really exciting has happened—yet.” According to Liu, his Shoreditch store has welcomed some celebrity customers with Eddie Redmayne and America Ferrara among them, even some fashion people such as Alexander Wang and Erdem Moralioglu (“His friend who came in with him even pointed out to him that his clothes were on sale…God knows what he thought about that!”). Liu is sure that the Chelsea store will do even better, just give it a little more time.
“My goal for this store is to become a destination, the place to be to shop for designer clothes, not the trendy stuff they sell in flagship stores of course.” With his sharp mind for business and instinctive eye for fashion, Gary Liu and Renascence are definitely on their way.
Visit Renascence at 22 Park Walk, London.