Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Harvey Nichols' Reboot
Image source: Harvey Nichols, Birmingham

British department store Harvey Nichols has reopened its Birmingham store after extensive refurbishment with a design that trades on cutting-edge digital technologies and design cues borrowed from the hospitality sector.

Located in upscale shopping mall The Mailbox, the flagship, which was designed by London-based agency Virgile + Partners, spans 45,000 sq ft. The entrance features a 39ft-long ‘immersive tunnel’ of LED screens showing seasonal imagery, such as sunny meadows and autumn leaves.

Another key digital element is its ‘360-degree’ changing-room mirrors, which enable consumers to record their look from all angles as a video, replay it and share via social media for advice.

Drawing on the hospitality sector to ensure the digital elements transcend gimmick as part of a more holistic redesign, the store offers concierge services such as valet parking and a cloakroom. There is also a restaurant headed by local Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell. Shadi Halliwell, group marketing and creative director at Harvey Nichols, said: “Customers have told us they love going into hotels, getting rid of everything as they walk in and having it all taken care of.”

There are no concession stores, till points (iPad-equipped staff take payments anywhere in the store, excluding the beauty department) or defined walkways for consumers to follow, refocusing the journey on a more serendipitous style of exploration. Carlos Virgile, director of Virgile + Partners, comments: “We thought it unnecessary to have such rigid walkways and ways of guiding people through the store. We have given them more freedom to explore. People can move in any direction and will always find something interesting at the end of that journey.”

The opening coincides with the launch of Harvey Nichols’ loyalty app. It encourages consumers to collect points for money spent in-store, which can be swapped for personalised rewards such as experiences (a champagne dinner at London’s Oxo Tower, for instance) or gift vouchers.

The new design concept will soon be rolled out to other Harvey Nichols stores – including the seven-storey Knightsbridge flagship in London in spring 2016.

Guest post by Marta PodeszwaKatie Baron

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Ralph Lauren Hybrid Flagship
Image source: Ralph Lauren’s VIP hybrid flagship, Milan

American luxury fashion brand Ralph Lauren is set to open an appointment-only concept store in Milan that will bring hospitality and retail under one roof – solidifying its stance as a full lifestyle brand. The store was conceived as a more immersive brand experience for its most premium shoppers.

Dubbed Milan Palazzo, the 11,840 sq ft flagship will open this September on high-end shopping street Via San Barnaba in the centre of the city, occupying a former private townhouse built in 1941. It will retain many of the building’s architectural features, including the original fireplaces, while the interiors will be decorated with soft furnishings and furniture from the brand’s own Home collection.

On arriving for a one-on-one consultation, guests will be invited to have lunch or drinks on the spacious terrace or in the salon area of the building. From there, staff will present a curated selection of items from the brand’s womenswear and high-end menswear Purple Label collections – and, on occasion, exclusive pieces debuted during New York Fashion Week, just days after the shows. The store will also offer a number of complimentary services including alterations, customised accessories, and made-to-measure suits for men and tailoring for women.

In a similar, albeit much less exclusive version of luxury-focused, mixed-purpose retailing, Burberry has unveiled a two-storey café in its recently extended store on London’s Regent Street. Dubbed Thomas’s in homage to the brand’s founder Thomas Burberry, the cafe operates seven days a week and focuses on British classics with an upmarket twist, such as Mersea rock oysters and lobster and chips. The space also houses a gifting area comprising the British brand’s travel, homeware and stationery lines, and a personalised monogramming service.

According to the brand’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey, the space was conceived to let consumers “enjoy the world of Burberry in a more social environment”.

Ralph Lauren and Burberry are the latest in a growing number of luxury brands endeavouring to broaden their appeal by incorporating hospitality experiences, including British menswear brand Alfred Dunhill, Italian fashion label Roberto Cavalli and Ralph Lauren’s own café concept, Ralph’s Coffee.

Guest post by Samantha Fox

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