Late Night Chameleon Café Weaves Together Fashion, Music and Design
Late Night Chameleon Café is not your average store. How many other stores do you enter — by appointment only — by descending down a dark stairwell into two connected tunnels, one giving off a ghostly forest vibe thanks to a twig motif, the other feeling like the wooden skeleton of a disused spaceship, all while a trippy ambient soundtrack floats through the air?
You could call it a concept boutique, but that doesn't fully encompass an environment in which music, literature and architecture are equally as important as cutting-edge fashion.
The brainchild of John Skelton and Dan Mitchell (both from the oki-ni menswear portal), LN-CC began as a website in 2010. The physical store launched two months after this, and was designed by artist and set designer Gary Card, whose dramatic vision for the building (formerly a boxing studio), located in East London’s Dalston, perfectly articulates the varying elements of LN-CC’s carefully constructed identity.
The "appointment only" nature of the store combined with its hidden location and focus on high-end fashion would initially suggests an elitist attitude, but this genuinely isn’t the case. “Anyone is welcome to come down, you don’t need to be buying,” explains Christie Fels, head of PR and marketing for the store. “The reason for this is so that everyone gets a personal experience of the space. The store team are really happy to take people around and explain the whole story.”
Once inside, it’s a surprisingly relaxed and comfortable environment. The architecture and design are, of course, highly stylised, but also frequently warm and inviting.
The first of the themed rooms, or "pods," into which the store is split reinforces this idea, with a spacious, light feel to the room. LN-CC’s new brands are housed here, with men’s and women’s items mixed in together. Key to the LN-CC fashion aesthetic are the Japanese brands it stocks, many of which are exclusive to LN-CC (outside of Asia), reflecting a healthy fascination with Japanese street style.
Currently included in this range are brands such as SASQUATCHfabrix and designers like Junya Watanabe and Yohji Yamamoto. New brands and designers to be featured in LN-CC for winter include: Individual Sentiments, Ava Catherside, Sasaki and Cherevichkiotvichki.
The second pod reflects the store’s mainline brands with a more intimate, darker aesthetic. “The idea that [Card] wanted to work with is that there are two parts to our buy,” says Fels. “One is inspired by this underground Japanese style, and the other is mainline brands … but our buy of mainline brands is quite different to how other people buy, which I think is what makes us special. And to highlight this, Gary decided to create these separate pods, because if it was all in one space it wouldn’t be doing justice to any of the brands.”
The final clothing pod reflects a combination of new brands and established designers, via yet another impressive design aesthetic, but it is in a separate pod that a further, crucial part of LN-CC’s identity is showcased: music and books. It’s a small but well thought-out space, carefully filled with rare books – some on fashion, but others covering general arts and subculture themes – and a beautiful vintage vinyl collection, featuring everything from Stevie Wonder to Theo Parish.
“Music is a huge part of LN-CC,” confirms Fels. “It’s not a side thing, it’s as big and important as the fashion side.” This is reinforced by the store parties that take place in an intimate club space at the back of the building, complete with a bar and setup for decks. LN-CC puts on events and general shindigs here, sometimes to launch a new brand or special music release, but occasionally just to get friends and family together for a night, accompanied by whoever happens to be DJing – which may include LN-CC’s music-obsessed founders.
Overall, LN-CC is a refined concept that works, and works well, mainly because it’s designed and run by people with a passion for their products and a finely honed eye for detail, which shines through in every intriguing corner of this truly unique venture.