Circle Collective: This Is No Ordinary Store

Fulfilling The Circle Collective’s Vision Through Design

Locations: Lewisham, London, UK; Canary Wharf, London, UK

Community support has become more important than ever, which is why Circle Collective’s sole objective is to help young, disadvantaged people get into work and on a path to transforming their lives through opening a trio of streetwear fashion stores in London that provide a practical platform for employment.

Briggs Hillier were delighted to help Circle Collective fulfil their vision through the strategic direction and all-inclusive design of its outlet in Lewisham Shopping Centre, as well as the charity’s more recent store opening in Canary Wharf.


Who are Circle Collective?

Circle Collective is a UK charity and social enterprise that helps disadvantaged, local, unemployed young people into permanent, life-changing work. Their vision is that no young person who wants to be in employment should be without a job.

Retail: The Perfect Training Ground

Around half of the young people helped by Circle Collective have no work experience and few qualifications. Many face multiple barriers to work such as deprivation, learning difficulties and mental health issues, as well as lack of training, confidence and resilience needed within the workplace. To act as a platform from which to provide training, work experience and build self confidence that can open up a variety of employment opportunities, Circle Collective are building a unique retail business.

Turly Humphreys, CEO & Founder of Circle Collective says “Retail is the perfect training ground for customer service, sales and teamwork, so combined with our employability charity and a great network we have now placed over 850 young people into permanent jobs”.




A Space For The Community To Come Together

The game-changing Lewisham store is not only a contemporary streetwear environment but it also provides a community space for young people to access information about careers, and attend a range of events, seminars and workshops around fashion, customer service, and improving employability through CV development and interview training. In contrast, the Canary Wharf store focuses its attention more heavily on its retail offering to raise funds for the charity’s current initiatives and future expansion, as well as providing valuable work experience for young people on the shop floor.


Ethical & Localised

The product offer in-store has been selected to not only promote sustainability, but engage and appeal to the young people that Circle Collective want to support. With a streetwear focus, product is unisex and includes apparel, footwear, accessories and skateboards. In addition, there is the opportunity for relevant local artists and emerging designers to use the store’s retail space to showcase their products.

Featured brands include a combination of established names, such as Fila, Diadora, HUF and Consigned, through to emerging, independent brands such as Visual Snow, Handy Supply Co and Trash Gxng. The focus is to support emerging brands by providing a platform that enables them to showcase their designs alongside established brands. The brand mix is evolving as Circle Collective’s CEO continues her quest to stock, or partner, with other brands that share a common set of values and champion young people – while providing customers with a diverse and unique shopping experience.

Key to the offer is Circle Collective’s own apparel brand ‘Purpose’, a men’s and women’s streetwear collection created in collaboration with the London College of Fashion. Purpose product is produced by ‘Making for Change’; a training and manufacturing unit in HMP Downview women’s prison. By participating in ‘Making for Change’, the women learn manufacturing up to level three accreditations, helping to reduce re-offending rates by giving the women a skill that will help them find employment within the manufacturing industry when they leave prison.


Sustainability at the heart of the retail space

With sustainability at the heart of all design decisions, we obtained unused, re-cycled and upcycled fixtures from industry contacts, and brought on board suppliers to provide free or at-cost services to help transform the units into Circle Collective retail and training hubs. This was particularly prominent in the execution of the Canary Wharf store which saw the charity source second-hand furniture from neighbouring stores, such as midfloor units and rails to display the collections.


Multi-Functional Store Hub

Both stores sought to provide a multifunctional hub, a key driver of our design rationale which we achieved through proposing the use of modular, easy-to-move furniture that could be laid out in a myriad of ways for the charity’s varying spatial needs. In the Lewisham store, the multi-functional hub location gravitated towards the centre of the store with a Circle Collective-branded column acting as a key focal point and design anchor. In the Canary Wharf store, we sought to create the same notion of a multi-functional environment, but this time through the proposed use of market clips to display interchangeable POS elements which would determine the charity’s comms and the overall customer experience at any given time.


Facilitating brand stories and product changes

Easily movable merchandising units and perimeter wall graphics and messaging help with the seamless implementation of product changes and collection updates, as well as helping to bring product stories to life. It is also worth noting that models included on graphics are young people who have been supported by Circle Collective.

True to both stores are a handful of distinct category touchpoints that are a key part of the charity’s retail offering, such as Circle Collective’s vintage and skate zones, which capture the essence of the Circle Collective brand, as well as creating a shopping experience that is consistent to its unique identity.


A note from the brand…

“After opening our Lewisham store with Briggs Hillier’s support, Circle was offered a large premises in Canary Wharf to create a Circle Collective store and charity space to get local Tower Hamlet young people into employment. As a charity and social enterprise, Circle had limited set up costs for the store and asked for support from Briggs Hillier’s wonderful studio staff to come up with a simple but stylish design that would fit in with the top brands at Canary Wharf. We have implemented this with yet more magic from Briggs Hillier who helped us source a donation of all the shop rails and stands.” – Turly Humphreys, CEO, Circle Collective.

What’s next for Circle Collective?

So far Circle has used it streetwear and vintage stores to train hundreds of unemployed young people in customer service, and placed nearly one thousand into permanent jobs. Circle are now working on opening a potential new location in Camden!


Lucy Mister

19th July 2023