While visiting Hethel to do some filming for our Esprit S1 documentary, Tony K and I, along with Gordon Masson, attended the opening of Lotus’s first LOTUS ORIGINALS retail shop, which also serves as a model for future dealership interiors with the ribbon-cutting by Dany Bahar and Bruno Senna.

Many of us TLFers have taken a poke at the prices for the new merchandise, but having seen it up close there really was no denying the quality, which is certainly on par with Ferrari, Porsche, or Lamborghini swag, and similarly priced. And with the likes of Loro Piana producing some of the merchandise, the LOTUS ORIGINALS quality is arguably even on par with the casual and accessory lines of upscale clothiers like Paul Stuart. So while the prices are high—presumably to drive demand and enhance the brand through exclusivity—the quality would seem to back up the cost in comparison with Lotus’s competitors. And while some items like the $1,549 backgammon set are astronomical to the average enthusiast, those types of items unquestionably have their place in the realm of corporate gifting. (HINT: Bibs wants one for Christmas.) Thankfully, however, the LOTUS ORIGINALS merchandise is subtle enough to not come across as mercenary like other marques’ and doesn’t feel like an obvious or cheap attempt at indoctrination.

And even the fastidious Tony K thought the luggage, such as the Brown Leather Boston Bag, was of exceptional quality. And for $1,759 it damn well better be! But it’s not every day you get to drink free champagne before lunch, have a chat with Jean Alesi and Bruno Senna, and pick up a few baubles for yourself and the kids, so it was a rather nice opening.

Perhaps more compelling than the merchandise, however, was the interior styling that Lotus has been carrying through at least since the last New York Auto Show booth, and which, as stated in the press release below, does in fact coax you to relax and peruse the library and promotional literature and contemplate how much cooler you’ll be in an Evora than a Cayman. If the interior concept can be effectively scaled out to dealers, I think it will be a nice improvement since it’s much needed in some cases, although not by my dealer, Tom Papadopoulos, of Lotus Motorcars of Long Island, who joined us at the shop opening and has quite a nice facility. (And no, he didn’t buy me a backgammon set to say that.)

NOTE TO LOTUS: Just a suggestion for some über-swag, i.e., start selling the Lotus-badged Recaro seats as in the main lobby. I’d take one over a Herman Miller Aeron any day.

The shop opening also included the new Exige S prototype, which was absolutely fantastic. Certainly a more stylish and aggressive take on the model which looks like it’ll be a complete terror on the track. Or the canyons outside Los Angeles if a certain TLFer can get one street-legal.

And now the official Lotus press release:

Be Original, Be Lotus

The new customer facing Lotus experience was showcased today as the LOTUS ORIGINALS shop and future dealership concept were launched by Lotus Renault GP’s Bruno Senna.

Located at the Group Lotus HQ, Hethel, UK, the new retail concept clearly demonstrates the reinvigorated identity of Lotus, one befitting the current and future collection of cars planned for 2013 and beyond.

Part of a global strategy, the Hethel store is the first LOTUS ORIGINALS retail experience to open in Europe and finally gives customers the chance to try the collection before they buy having only been able to buy online since March 2011.

Commenting on the launch, Group Lotus Director of Licensing and Merchandise, Wiebke Bauer, said: “It’s a very proud day for us today, it’s more than a simple store opening. One of the biggest challenges we have as a business, outside of selling cars, is to make the Lotus brand as accessible as possible. We have many fans out there in the world who aren’t necessarily in a position to buy one of our cars but they still want to be part of the Lotus world and this means a lot to us. Developments like this first shop – as part of our global retail strategy, our motorsports activities and the magazine allow us to reach out to so many people who believe in Lotus and this can only be a good thing.”

“The team have worked incredibly hard to put together a range of apparel and accessories that will appeal to even the most hard to please Lotus enthusiast. Our focus throughout has been on quality and ensuring a truly authentic Lotus experience for the customer. This shop opening is just one of the many small but important steps we are currently taking as part of the overall brand development strategy. Our next major step will be the official LOTUS ORIGINALS store opening in London early next year – which we’re very much looking forward to. People won’t need to wait until next year though, they can come and get a taste of what to expect right here, right now at Hethel.”

Alongside the shop, Group Lotus also showcased the new look customers can expect from Lotus dealerships in the future. The dealership environment has a modern look and feel with an inviting lounge area where customers can browse the Lotus library or leisurely spec their new Lotus! Lotus’ latest cars will be on display with a full paint and trim swatches to complete the Lotus shopping experience.

The store is open to the public Monday to Thursday 8.30 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. and 8.30 a.m. until midday on Fridays. Customers can also shop online at LOTUSORIGINALS.com.

Consistency throughout the store and the product offering is very important. The LOTUS ORIGINALS collection is a refined, cohesive range of luxury apparel, leather goods, and performance outerwear that centre on craftsmanship, heritage, and the spirit of Lotus, yet use new technologies and techniques that appeal to today’s buyer – a theme that runs throughout everything Lotus does and results in desirability and exclusivity.

High quality and attention to detail are key, with Loro Piana 100% cashmere yarn used in block coloured sweaters, cardigans and V-neck knits. Polo shirts and T-shirts feature double stitch edging with a playful approach to branding including; vintage Lotus logos, racing stripes and car silhouettes. A hand-treated leather jacket, inspired by the 1970s drivers’ suits, uses authentic design details in the form of protective quilted padding on the shoulders and a two-button side-fasten collar.

The new store will also showcase a range of luxury lifestyle accessories. Hand-crafted luggage will be available in several styles; all finished with heavy zips, contrast stitching and discrete embossed Lotus logos. Calfskin leather driving gloves are the ultimate indulgence, in tan, black, Lotus green and bright yellow. Carbon fibre gaming sets, calfskin wallets, range of colourful belts and luxury desk accessories are also available as part of the range.

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