As a retail maven, I live retail even on vacation. My recent trip to London put in in the very heart of it: my hotel was directly across from the never to be forgotten Liberty store and in the heart of Regent Street/Oxford Street/Carnaby Street shopping. Yet, the most striking retailer I found was All Saints Boutique in Covent Gardens. The male/female apparel and accessories retailer had a most appealing integration of front windows, interior fixtures and product selection.
The entire front window was filled with antique sewing machines. The black vintage singer machines gave the shop both a cool steam punk vibe as well as reinforcing the hand sewn, high quality feel. Inside, the same aesthetic carried into the machined, fixtures with oversized screws as shelving uprights and more vintage sewing machine stands stood in for table legs. Inside, the exposed brick, cog design at the cash wrap and vintage body forms as mannequins were perfect foils for gray and beige clothes that take their cues from everything from WWII parachutes (LOVE this dress!) to Welsh fisherman sweaters.
And, should you think it was all high-flying retail that caught my eye, I was stunned with the overwhelming selection of everything paper at Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road. What a salute to creativity in its most pulpy form! The store carried everything from beautiful (expensive!) handcrafted Japanses papers to neon corrugated cardboard. The four-level shop included a coffee/tea shop and plenty to awaken the creative juices.
Even the more utilitarian next store (think if Crate & Barrel and Banana Republic had a baby) was inspiring for its selection of kitchen and bath furnishings and children’s wear. It reminded me of the power of a well-edited assortment and smart trend forecasting.