One of our favorite cult bike brands, tokyobike, just threw a housewarming party and customized-bike exhibit to inaugurate its new outpost in London's Shoreditch neighborhood. Londoners can now buy these lightweight, 22lb bikes directly from the Japanese bike-maker in a variety of frame colors and models. The simple, all-white 1,700-square-foot interior of the shop, designed by Glass Hill, also stocks hard-to-find accessories and lifestyle pieces such as Japanese bags and housewares, and houses a bike workshop space in the basement. We asked the team at the London location to give us more insight into the new shop, which is the latest in a string of recent openings that includes Berlin, Sydney and Singapore, with Paris and New York coming soon.
The design of the store incorporates elevated platforms for the bikes. Can you explain the concept behind these?
Joe Nunn, Glass Hill: The elevated platforms are more a shared approach that sees that different functions should take place in different spaces. Separating the circulation area from the product display area seems appropriate in the same way as a genkan is right for outdoor shoes and not indoor slippers. We are showing the bicycles as new and pristine, and the slight separation in height and material not only says that visually but also practically.
What is the significance of the hanging cedar ball and how does it fit into the space?
Yuki Sugahara, store manager of tokyobike Melbourne: The cedar ball, made by Japanese craftsman, is traditionally used at the sake breweries as a sign to tell the locals that the fresh sake is ready. We wanted to have a symbolic piece that makes our customers feel something about Japan, where tokyobike originally came from. It is a beautiful and happy element that stands out in a simple white space and will hopefully start a conversation.
What elements did you bring to this store to give it a London personality?
Neil Davis, tokyobike: tokyobike comes from a traditional suburb of Tokyo with a lot of craftspeople and designer/makers still working. The Yanaka store displays and sells a lot of this work, and the London store will be similar in that respect, showcasing local products and designs alongside books and maps and a carefully curated range of bicycle accessories. Gropes is a good example.
What are your plans for the store and brand in the UK?
Davis: The store is a beautiful, clean space designed to show off the bikes and their many colors, but this makes it ideal for events and exhibitions. We have just collaborated with six artists to produce six pieces of bike art which will be displayed at the store before being auctioned. In the future look out for more exhibitions and product launches.
What is the fixie bike culture like in London?
Yu Fujiwara, store manager of tokyobike London: Compared with Tokyo, London's bike culture is more centered around DIY and vintage. People fix up their old bikes or ride 1950s and '60s bicycles; the growing popularity of the Tweed Run typifies this culture. Tokyo's fixie culture is more rooted in pop/youth culture, which mixes colorful components with fashion.
What did you learn about the UK market after you did the pop-up shop last year that you took into account for this permanent location?
Davis: Pop-ups are fun but we always intended to have a permanent store. Not least because we want to look after our customers' bikes. Location was important too—staying in Shoreditch, close to our existing customer base and in an area where there is still a lot of creativity. Space was also important. We wanted to give people coming to the store an experience as well as have enough room to show the entire range and house a workshop to build/service the bikes.
If you're in London during Clerkenwell Design Week from 22-25 May 2012, tokyobike will be offering its famous bike tours. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot.