Q&A: Karin Gustafsson of Cos

Karin Gustafsson describes Cos’s retail spaces as ‘blank canvases’.

We caught up with Karin Gustafsson, head of womenswear at Cos, during her recent visit to Amsterdam. 

There’s no doubt that Cos is onto a good thing. Less than ten years after its launch, the brand has stores in 26 countries and is just about to break into new markets, including Canada (with stores in Toronto and Montreal) and Luxembourg. They’re expanding their existing markets, too. So what makes a Cos store a Cos store? Karin Gustafsson fills us in.

Are all Cos stores designed in-house?
Karin Gustafsson: Yes, by our in-house team of architects. We like the idea that the store is a blank canvas, but we also try to maintain the feel – or at least some aspect – of the original space. The concept of Cos collections is that you should always find something for every occasion. Our spaces fit that concept and are divided into different sections. Our aesthetic is calm, quiet and long-lasting.

What do you look for in a new space?
We look for character, atmosphere and location. Cos is somewhere between a high-street and a high-end brand, so it’s always attractive to be placed halfway. The spaces we select are bright and have potential. It’s great if there are interesting existing elements, too. Our New York space has a big well in the basement; we’d never take it out. We preserve things like that, turning them into landmarks. It’s a nice twist to the collections.

Has the retail direction changed since Cos launched in 2007?
Everything has evolved, but we’ll always hold onto the idea of having different wardrobes. We also want to maintain the blank canvas feel, both off- and online. We have a section called ‘Things’ on our website. The selection highlights who and what we like. Sometimes you can find those things in our physical stores, too.

We last spoke in Milan during the Cos x Snarkitecture collaboration. Are you currently collaborating on other initiatives?
This year’s Park Nights at the Serpentine in London are just about to begin. We’ve supported the event for a number of years. Serpentine director Hans Ulrich Obrist contacted us after seeing some of our shop windows exhibiting work from students. He liked our approach.


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