BuckleyGrayYeoman has worked with iconic sportswear and fashion brand Fred Perry on several of its spaces: in 2009, the architect created a sculptural front of house at the brand’s former London office in Covent Garden and has since designed retail spaces for the brand throughout the UK, Europe and the Far East.
The brief for the new Clerkenwell office was to unite all of the brand’s back-of-house functions into one site. The headquarters is the culmination of the company’s eight-year relationship with BuckleyGrayYeoman and gave the architect the chance to implement lessons learned from previous designs.
“From an operational perspective, the building brought together all strands of Fred Perry’s business under one roof – management, admin, design, showrooms etc. But interestingly for us, it also gave the opportunity to bring together design concepts from other projects we had previously completed with them,” explains Amr Assaad, project architect and associate director of BuckleyGrayYeoman.
The practice was appointed in 2013 to complete the refurbishment of 29-39 Mount Pleasant, originally three different Victorian factory buildings, by the Low Carbon Trust and Stanhope. The architect was brought on board by Fred Perry in 2015 to continue with the full fit out, working with both clients to complete the space. BuckleyGrayYeoman’s command over the space took the practice from rationalising the separate buildings and floorplates, through to designing bespoke joinery and furniture items for Fred Perry.
The Mount Pleasant site’s charm was at the centre of the refurbishment and later the fit-out: “The building has got so much character that you don’t want to compete with that but to work with it,” says Assaad. Fortunately, “Fred Perry, much like the landlord, were keen that the character of the building was retained” and the brand was driven by its “commitment to authenticity”.
BuckleyGrayYeoman’s materials palette celebrates both the history of the building and Fred Perry’s enduring style; a calm design approach puts these two narratives to the fore. Original features and brickwork are exposed and the building’s layers left visible, while modifications are subtle and include unpainted timber joinery, raw concrete and black-lacquered steel panels.
Fred Perry’s HQ divides its operations between five floors of office space. The offices share the same design language but enjoy subtle differences in layout and finish; the furniture and lighting choices are “quite eclectic, not rigid”, says Assaad.
The sixth floor provides an informal breakout space for staff – the ping-pong style plywood tables are a nice touch – as well as a rooftop terrace overlooking Mount Pleasant and with views out to St Pancras station. Items of interest can be found throughout the space, such as a print in one of the stairwells of the company’s founder, tennis star Frederick John Perry, on the cover of Time magazine.
On the ground floor the more open, public spaces can be found. As Assaad explains: “An important part of the approach was finding ways of conveying the history of the brand. To this end, the design was seen as a blend of office and gallery spaces. The best example of this is on the ground floor of the building – on the corner of the building. “Here, we created a double-height gallery space to showcase original Fred Perry designs and memorabilia,” he adds. “From the outside, this prominent corner gallery space forms a changing ‘shop display’. From the inside it gives an engaging sequence between the reception and meeting rooms.”
Visitors to the building are immediately surrounded by the brand as they walk into the reception area. Along the back of the space is a feature wall that has been created from small sections of rolled steel, with a Fred Perry wreath laurel in stained oak – “in keeping with the materiality of the building and subtly highlighting the brand”.
A low-rise concrete desk runs the length of another wall and a restored vintage Wurlitzer nods to the brand’s musical heritage and connections to British subculture. The jukebox is filled with 45s and connected to the sound system, and during my tour the cool atmosphere was heightened by the rock’n’roll playing throughout the space.
To the left of the reception is the main showroom which was designed to be as flexible as possible. Pared-back finishes “let the clothes do the talking” and the space is able to adapt as the changing displays require and to allow Fred Perry to host different types of events.
“Everything you see here was bespoke made for the space… nearly everything you see upstairs was too,” Assaad tells me. Helpful twists include sliding rails that allow staff to select an individual item from the collection and present it on the outside of the clothes rails with a neat flourish.
On the right of the reception the two smaller of the original buildings now provide a gallery space, leading through to a suite of meeting rooms and another showroom for Fred Perry’s Laurel collection. The nature of the site has created various level changes and the architects have used the quirks of the space to create interesting experiences, such as views down into the gallery space from the showroom.
Bespoke cabinets display Fred Perry’s collection of statement and historic pieces and the gallery is positioned on the street corner to give visitors a view into the effortless space that BuckleyGrayYeoman has created. Inside lies a calm and practical HQ and a confident expression of, as Assaad puts it, the “authenticity, integrity and attitude which are synonymous with Fred Perry”.
Architecture firm BuckleyGrayYeoman creates an office, showroom and gallery space for iconic sportswear and fashion brand Fred Perry in Clerkenwell