The Pineal Eye, on the thoroughfare that connects Carnaby Street with Soho, is small. A stainless steel walkway along one side of the shop leads to a staircase down into the tiny basement floor space, which is crammed with one-off fashion items from cutting-edge designers, second-hand Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto sourced from Japan, cult accessories and magazines. The key words to describe Pineal Eye are edgy, raw, avant- garde, and street.
The differences between the two shops are as marked as the differences between the two cities, so on that premise the hype is correct, up to a point.
The duo responsible for creating the shop are Yuko Yabiku and Nicola Formichetti. She's Japanese, he's half-Italian, half-Japanese, and both have the uncanny knack of being able to take in London's fashion culture and reinterpret it for popular consumption. They don't own the shop, but it is their baby. It has been funded by a large Japanese company which owns various fashion licences, including Vivienne Westwood's luggage and jewellery lines. With Yuko as their London guide, they opened Kokon Tozai, a record-cum-obscure Japanese fashion shop, on Soho's Greek Street in early 1997, which is still going, but without Yuko's input. Last summer she had a much better idea for her benefactors. Having grown tired of the clothes available in designer boutiques - "it is all so safe and boring" - she made some calls to find out where the extravagant showpieces go, only to find that most of them sit in studios gathering dust. "It's such a shame, somebody must want to buy this," she thought, and the Pineal Eye (another name for the third eye) was born.
Last Saturday, at the opening party, there wasn't much to see, bar a few clothed mannequins hanging from the ceiling and a bar with plenty of beer. The fully-stocked shop opened on Thursday with clothes and jewellery from, among others, Belgian deconstructivist Martin Margiela, British womenswear designer Hussein Chalayan, Belgian menswear designer Raf Simons, jeweller Shaun Lean, Dutch couturiers Viktor and Rolf, New York-based Bruce, and lots of others.
Yabiku and Formichetti want it to offer something for everyone interested in cutting-edge fashion and the London scene. There will also be magazines such as Surface (the American version of the Face), Purple, Self Service, Dutch, Street, and "it", as well as lots of funny bits and bobs from Japan and accessories from French label Bless (see them to believe them). They will be affordable, but the showpiece items are a different kettle of fish. Yuko and Nicola regard each one as a work of art, and will sell them as such. Prices will be up to pounds 3,000 for some items, but for fans of fashion, this won't matter.
The Pineal Eye, 49 Broadwick Street, W1 (0171 739 5047)
Photographs by Suzy delCampo .Above right: snakeskin mini-skirt by Susan Ciancolo on a mannequin suspended from the ceiling of the shop
Above: Yuko Yabiku (left), dressed head to toe in Margiela, celebrates with Nicola Formichetti on the opening nightReuse content