Industrial luxe fitness

New London boutique gym 1Rebel is set to shake up the city’s fitness offering. Michael Sheridan, CEO of global retail design agency Sheridan&Co, reveals how it spearheaded the brand’s retail approach and design to attract London’s dynamic, professional, image-conscious crowd.



new gym concept has just opened in London that is poised to disrupt the way City dwellers keep fit for the better.

The boutique ‘no-contract’, ‘pay-as-you-train’ gym, the first of its kind located beneath London’s iconic buildings The Gherkin and Heron Tower is a far cry from its rather staid and corporate-looking run-of-the-mill peers.

With its contemporary design-led ‘industrial luxe’ aesthetic, 1Rebel – the brainchild of fitness entrepreneurs James Balfour and Giles Dean – is set to create an environment that motivates and facilitates ‘high intensity interval training’ whilst accommodating a lifestyle space where members may cool down, relax and get ready for a night out against a backdrop of live entertainment, arty installations and bespoke playlists curated and mixed by some of the dance scene’s most internationally acclaimed DJs. Indeed the ‘vibe’ of the gym is much more akin to any trendy bar or creative workspace you’d find in the hipster corners of Shoreditch or Clerkenwell.

We’ve been in the business for over 30 years and have created retail environments for some of the world’s leading luxury brands including Laura Mercier and World of Whiskeys, as well as pop-ups for startups including Face Gym. 1Rebel presented us with an unusual challenge – capturing the brand spirit and enticing its core demographic (the City’s dynamic, professional and image conscious crowd) without intimidating or alienating the wider market.

Fitness destination

1Rebel’s brand spirit is inherent in its name – rebellious, risqué, playful and edgy. Positioned as more of a ‘destination’ than a gym, its un-preaching, non-judgmental approach to fitness is underpinned by a clear and resounding empathy for the hedonism and sinful excesses enjoyed by its typical, fast-living clientele.

Our task was to capture this work-hard-play-hard, detox-retox spirit through the brand’s various touchpoints, devising striking visual mechanisms that would appeal to the brand’s core market of twenty-something dynamic, image-conscious professionals and convey a feeling of attainable luxury. We created and designed a retail strategy and visual merchandising solutions within the club’s designated retail zones that would importantly carry this narrative through for a truly immersive brand experience. Part of our approach was to map out every detail of the customer journey, undertake detailed competitor analysis and then develop a retail strategy that would inform the design, look and feel of 1Rebel’s product packaging for clothing, as well as its window and retail displays. These would reflect and enhance the gym’s brand identity, language and overriding aesthetic of paired-back modernity, with its interior’s accents of black steel and sculptural copper creating a premium yet industrial, utilitarian feel.

Staying focused

From this, we designed two semi permanent window displays inspired by the gym’s patented workbench, dubbed “The Box” – a central focus of the Rebel ReShape workout and a unique touch point for the club. To emphasise how core the workbench is to the overall design, “The Box” itself is given due prominence on a plinth – an art installation-style lectern with a screen-printed metal plaque upon which an education piece is inscribed. It reads: “THE BOX” – “This is no ordinary workbench, it’s a work station built around your workout, so you stay focused on the job at hand, no sharing weights, no breaks between sets, no stopping till its over”.

We complemented this area further by creating a corner window display incorporating a TV featuring a pre-recorded 1Rebel video on loop, visible at night, set amid chain-link fencing and steel metal frames – all in keeping with the gym’s industrial luxe aesthetic. The video flashes between brand statements and evocative imagery to lure passers by inside.

The design aesthetic was then extended to the tags and garment packaging for 1Rebel’s exclusive line of apparel, and we developed further ideas to display the merchandise in line with its environment. Beyond conceiving and implementing the retail design strategy, we also played a consultative role by forging a strategic alliance between 1Rebel and another client of ours, Roots & Bulbs, for which Sheridan & Co designed the visual merchandising elements for its Marylebone and South Kensington stores. The boutique gym now has a Roots & Bulbs organic cold-pressed juice bar situated at the entrance of its St Mary Axe club, incorporating VM elements from neon signage to chalkboards – all designed by us and which is, again, in keeping with the industrial luxe aesthetic.

Unique identity

Rebel epitomises an irrepressible energy that simply bursts at the seams. Part of our challenge has been to create a visually impactful retail presence that communicated this unique brand identity and narrative through every little touch point. We needed to mastermind an approach that packed a punch without being too risqué; devise a mechanic that celebrated 1Rebel’s core point of difference without alienating the wider market. In turn what has been created is a look and feel that synergises with 1Rebel’s essence and identity – beautiful yet functional, luxurious yet accessible, disciplined yet free spirited.

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