In 21 years, it has gone from a simple idea to a way of life. Melanie Rickey charts the rise and rise of Warehouse
Saturday 02 August 1997
Jeff Banks opened the first shop on 6 September 1976. It wasn't the first of the high street stores as we know them today - both Jigsaw and French Connection began trading in 1972 - but it opened with a firm goal in mind: to sell designs straight from the warehouse (hence the name), and thus cut out the middle man and keep prices down.
Banks had become disillusioned at the cost of designer clothes available at the time; in fact he found his designs beyond the reach of his own pockets. In 1979, Warehouse was selling dresses for about pounds 16.99 (today the average dress costs pounds 45.99), and trousers for pounds 9.99 (now about pounds 40). All the clothes were designed by Banks and graduates from St Martins and the Royal College of Art. It took off immediately, and within five years 25 branches had opened nationwide. Today there are 79 outlets in the UK and 10 across the US - including a store in New York - with more to come. But the road to success has not been easy.
In 1986, when the store was 10 years old, it produced an anniversary brochure dedicated to Norman Parkinson and featuring the work of up and coming photographers and stylists, including Kim Knott and Lucinda Chambers of Vogue, who are responsible for the Tilda Swinton picture, left. The brochure stands as a half-way point for the company, and the beautiful images had as much power then as they do now. It was even possible to buy limited edition prints of the images, which are now collectors' items. Then things began to change.
In 1987 the company was bought by the mail-order giant Freemans, which launched Bymail (Warehouse by post), featuring a very youthful Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni and Christy Turlington as models, and a menswear range, which although successful, didn't last long. Sears PLC bought Freemans in 1988 and Warehouse was sucked into a conglomerate of brands that includes Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Richards and Adams. Derek Lovelock, managing director of Sears Clothing, saw Warehouse lose it's identity between 1989 and 1992. "It was languishing badly," he says. "We had placed Warehouse inside Miss Selfridge stores and their two images became blurred." Basically, it lost its oomph, and as testimony to that there are very few archive pictures from that early Nineties period.
Fast-forward to 1993, when a saviour in the form of Yasmin Yusuf, a former senior fashion buyer for Harvey Nichols, joined Warehouse first as both fashion director and managing director to restore brand image, the customers faith and, of course, to inject a serious dose of oomph into the clothes. Passionate about fashion, Yusuf reinvented the Warehouse woman, and reverted to the original brief. "We always ask ourselves, `Will she like it? Will she understand it? Can she afford it?'" she says. "We don't dictate to our customers - we want to create fashionable clothes for girls and women everywhere, so they can create their own style." It sounds like a corporate manifesto, and it is. Competition on the high street is fiercer than ever before, and companies have to be extremely focused to get their girl.
It is a widely held assumption that high street chains wait for the twice-yearly catwalk collections to enable their designers to copy the major trends and get them into the shops in double-quick time. This is not true of Warehouse. Its team of designers constantly travel the world looking at fabrics, street trends, and the clothes women are actually wearing. As Yusuf says: "We read fashion. It's not our business to look at a designer like Helmut Lang and copy him. We look at where he is coming from. So if he is doing punk, say, we look back to the beginning of punk." Warehouse is currently buying the fabrics for winter 1998, and designing the clothes for next spring, long before the fashion designers show us their vision.
Yusuf and her team have done such a good job of repositioning Warehouse in the marketplace that the store is now up there with the best of the rest. It has been nominated for the high street retailer of the year award three times, but so far this title has eluded it. Madeleine Christie, senior fashion editor at a soon to be launched version of Arena for women, has been styling Warehouse shoots for a few seasons. "The clever thing about them is that they manage to pick up on the major trends before they happen," she says. " It's fashionable, but not too streety; real women can relate to it." This is the key to its current success.
The latest range to go in-store bridges the gap between summer and autumn, and Yusuf is confident that the team has hit the nail on the head. "We know that legs are back, so we've got great dresses to wear with high heels. Red and grey are back, so we've translated these colours into our existing `Definitives' range, and onto dresses and suits. Narrow trousers are back, too, but we will provide our customers with bootcut shapes until they don't want them any more."
Aside from new trends in fashion, Warehouse always aims to provide customers with their favourite items.
As Yusuf says: "We just want to keep them happy so they come back."
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
27 March 2015 08:30 PM
20 March 2015 07:30 PM
How to make the most of Isas: You can save more money now, the returns are tax-free and the rules are flexible
20 March 2015 07:30 PM
13 March 2015 09:00 PM
13 March 2015 09:00 PM
10 March 2015 09:03 AM
The Financial Conduct Authority found non-compliance in all reviewed firms
11 March 2015 11:38 AM
Pension expert John Lawson talks on why improved longevity is something to plan for carefully
06 March 2015 08:30 PM
02 March 2015 10:50 AM
The DWP and the FCA have joined forces to investigate transaction charges in occupational pension schemes
04 March 2015 03:00 PM
The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times
27 February 2015 07:30 PM
27 February 2015 07:30 PM
27 February 2015 12:01 AM
The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
General election 2015: David Cameron's promise brings uncertainty to investors
Bargain Hunter: BT improves its mobile reception with 'incredibly competitive' deals
Have a happy new financial year
Simon Read: 'It went below the radar but you could be eligible for a tax break on your savings'
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
iJobs Money & Business
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...
Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...
£150 - £190 Daily Rate: Sheridan Maine: One of London's leading water supplier...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000