“This is a design simplicity – Japanese and Nordic – the two sides of the world come together,” says Barry Hirst, co-founder of Pantechnicon’s Liverpudlian, the five-story emporium of food, drink, of culture and design in Belgravia which opened its doors last September. According to Hirst, Pantechnicon is a celebration of a “shared aesthetic: not overly ornate – minimal, modest and utilitarian.”
Hirst is a visionary man. He first rose to prominence for reviving Belgravia’s Elizabeth Street, which he turned into a honeypot destination with the Thomas Cubitt pub (later sold, but still a local mainstay). When Grosvenor Estate offered him the chance to develop a conceptual space on nearby Motcomb Street, he took on a magnificent stucco building that was once a Victorian warehouse – his moving vans inspired the name.
Pantechnicon has been stripped of the original brick and wood with a nod to wabi-sabi, and is home to two restaurants: the modern Nordic-sloped Eldr and the Japanese market-inspired Sachi, as well as the Kitsuné patisserie café, a Japanese bar and bottle shop, a rooftop garden and two concept stores, The Studio and The Edit.
Both stores were organized by Japanese design authority Shu Terase, who honed his shopping flair at Monocle and Japanese lifestyle retailer Beams, before spending two years searching for treasures for these new stores. The Edit, downstairs, looks like a gift shop. “We want to offer something that you can’t get anywhere else in the UK,” Terase says. “Some things you might be able to get online, but not in a physical store. Some styles or colors are exclusive to us ”, like the Raincho“ red camo ”raincoat by Norwegian Rain (£ 610).
The store is designed to be ‘democratic’, with prices starting at £ 3.50 for Japanese Cypress Bath Salts. And diverse. Japanese wooden children’s toys and chic stationery sit alongside camping coffee items from cult outdoor cult brand Snow Peak and tetrahedral bags from Finnish textile designer Johanna Gullichsen (£ 84). Hirst’s favorite object, discovered in Tokyo, is a small acoustic iPhone speaker – “handcrafted, just a piece of wood, no electronics” – which costs £ 55.
Upstairs, The Studio is a spacious loft for housewares, beauty brands, fashion and big-ticket items, including a Tokyo Bike (£ 550) and a super high-tech digital speaker from Cotodama which doubles as a karaoke machine (£ 4,320). The makeup and skincare was developed in collaboration with Japanese beauty specialists Bijo (Rose Quartz Facial Massage Stones, £ 25, sell out almost as soon as they are replenished), while the Housewares include Arita’s 1616 dishwasher-safe pastel porcelain with scalloped edges (plates start at £ 12) and a Soil bath mat (£ 125) made with Japanese Diatomaceous Earth for water disappears like footprints at the edge of a swimming pool on a sunny day. Terase’s favorite pieces are the retro-classic Matsuda sunglasses – each pair involves 250 steps and takes up to four years to make (£ 455- £ 955).
Customers are united in their curiosity, says Hirst. “Not only do they want to be inspired, but they crave product knowledge. But they remain eclectic: visitors to London, hipsters, Belgravia devotees and researchers and designers. The Japanese ambassador loved it, he said. Dogs, meanwhile, are welcome, but their head height should be “below the table – so despite the Nordic connection unfortunately no Great Dane …”
pantechnicon.com, @_moving truck