Pro’s of the tracksuit, Juicy Couture, are flexing their wings with their new vintage inspired collection.

Juicy Couture co-founders Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy are responsible for evolving the tracksuit into a fashion icon. One of their classic velour numbers stands proud in the permanent Fashion Gallery at the V&A to prove it. Nash-Taylor is leading the next phase in this invasion of London’s style institutions from her just-decorated office above the new store at 26 Bruton Street. She is tanned, petite and immaculately turned out in sharp tailored grey shorts and a military peplum jacket from Juicy’s soon to be launched Bird collection. The July opening of this Mayfair flagship sees the label bring some playful LA glamour to a bastion of high-end retail. “Juicy has to keep evolving,” she says with a laidback Californian accent. “That’s really the trick to keeping a brand alive. You have to stay true to who you are, but you can’t get stuck or become passé.”

Juicy have restored the interior of their imposing W1 townhouse to its former glory, injecting contemporary Hollywood character in the process. “As a flagship for London this is the place to be,” says Nash-Taylor. “The challenge here was staying true to heritage. All our stores have things that are a little different but if you look at the architecture of each of our flagships they are very much what they should be for their location.” On Bruton Street this means West Coast fusion. Palm trees and surfboards hide amongst bespoke Georgian wallpaper patterns. Original plaster mouldings and ornate ceilings discovered in the refit loom over Juicy logo carpets and a Disney-like display of enormous stuffed animal heads.

With the launch of the Bird collection this autumn/winter, Juicy Couture is moving in a noticeably more mature direction. Vintage takes over from leisurewear and trademark brights give way to a sombre palette of greys and black. “Bird is definitely a different mentality,” Nash-Taylor affirms, “It’s very eclectic.” The uniform-style jacket she has on was inspired by a bargain found at Portobello Market. Men’s tailoring influences resonate through the collection, updated with a sharp feminine silhouette. Seductive cashmere sweaters with thumbholes in the sleeves, metal sequinned tank tops, leather leggings and faux fur shoulders further emphasise the tougher feel of this tightly edited debut.

The secret of Juicy’s success has always been its connection with the customer. The label embraced the power of celebrity endorsement early and recognised the relevance of comfort as being equally important to the concept of modern luxury as premium fabrics. This new balance of upmarket playfulness, with a move to Mayfair and sharp design acumen in Bird, is further evidence of the brand evolving to meet the needs of its public. “Juicy is a feel good brand,” says Nash-Taylor. “People like Juicy because it’s a happy brand. The colours make you happy. We have a sense of humour but we’re good at what we do and we’re accessible. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. I mean our socks line is called Smells Like Couture. You either think that’s funny or you don’t. We think it’s funny. Even the word couture is funny really.”

Photography: Mathias Sterner
Fashion: Abigail Sutton
Words: Ben Perdue

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #19, Sep/Oct 2009