The timeless French brand A.P.C. brings its classic pieces to Coal Drops Yard, says Stephen Emms
It’s always a pleasure to climb Coal Drops Yard’s wrought-iron steps and take a moment to appreciate the panoramic view: west offers a glimpse of the Regent’s Canal, with bucolic Camley Street Nature Reserve beyond, while north are Thomas Heatherwick’s famous ‘kissing roofs’, home to the innovative Samsung store.
Here too is where you’ll find the new branch of quietly iconic Parisian label A.P.C, founded back in 1987 by French-Tunisian designer Jean Touitou. If you’re not familiar with this unisex brand, the acronym stands for Atelier de Production et de Création, or simply Production and Creation Workshop.
Such functionality speaks volumes about its characteristics: unmistakably unshowy, A.P.C is the archetypal label that many in the industry believe is unrivalled in its pairing of elegance with utility. “Without production, creation remains at the idea stage,” says Touitou. “And without creation, a garment will have no soul.” So modest, in fact, was the designer when he started out that his first collection famously didn’t even have a name: it was merely called Hiver – Winter – 1987.
Formerly part of the legendary nightclub Bagley’s before its noughties closure, this new store’s interior is designed by Laurent Deroo Architecte. Polished black vintage ceramic tiles – so shiny you can see your reflection in them – adorn the floor, giving a sense of history, while triple-height ceilings, warm wood fixtures and slender light pendants reference the neighbourhood’s industrial heritage, lending an airy, yet low-key, grandeur fitting for a brand well into its fourth decade.
If it’s your first visit, head straight for the feel-appeal of A.P.C.’s raw denim jeans for men and women, something of a cult wear, and the inspo for Hedi Slimane’s famed noughties Dior Homme collection. But in interviews Touitou is always keen to underline that there’s more than just denim, with all manner of minimalist clothing and chic accessories lending an understated sense of cool.
This year sees the return of one of its most successful collaborations, A.P.C. and Carhartt WIP (whose store is based nearby on King’s Boulevard). And elsewhere the SS20 collection reaffirms A.P.C.’s original identity with beige and khaki monochrome outfits, small printed dresses and coats worn with socks and sandals – plus, of course, denim. Slogans such as ‘Positively Normal’ and ‘Radically Minimal’ are emblazoned in capitals on this season’s garments.
With both design studio and the workshop still based in Paris, Coal Drops Yard is the latest in a 70-strong international tally, including New York, L.A., Sydney, Hong Kong, Berlin and Tokyo. It’s the fourth in the capital itself, joining Soho, Shoreditch and Notting Hill.
Finally, a tip: don’t miss leafing through the hardback copy of Transmission, the whopping 544-page book published to celebrate 30 years of A.P.C in 2017. A monography of brand and founder, it tells its story – via collages, extracts and an exhaustive catalogue of images – over three weighty chapters, featuring the clothes, objects, images, places, music, and events Touitou remembers as significant from the last three decades.
“We worked like archivists,” says Touitou in the introduction, “digging into our own past. When I try to define my craft, I start to think that I developed something that’s also my own expression tool. This tool is A.P.C.”
A.P.C, Unit EP3, Coal Drops Yard, N1C
This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.