From Louis Vuitton’s Wizard of Oz-themed pop-up to new shopping district Coal Drops Yard, Selfridges’ ‘bowl’, Ikea’s Planning Studio and Whisky-Me’s vending machine, this month’s experiences we love is all about the best London has to offer.
Under the stewardship of Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton is ushering in a period of experiential, playful design and retail concepts. This month Abloh opened a pop up in London’s Mayfair dedicated to his favourite film.
What we love
The Wizard of Oz theme. The Bruton Street pop-up is an homage to The Wizard of Oz and features a ready-to-wear collection inspired by the iconic musical. The fantastical interiors, bold clothes and unexpected theme feels like an irreverent and modern route for Louis Vuitton to take, it’s nice to see a serious Parisian fashion house imbued with some playfulness.
It’s immersive. Guests have their own ‘Dorothy’ moment when entering the space as they walk along a vibrant yellow brick road carpet and are ushered into a waiting area that’s decorated with Oz merch. A sales assistant then individually takes guests around the dark and dramatic rooms that are enlivened with visceral poppy wallpaper, forbidden forest-inspired staging and the film’s famous score. The stand-out room was clad in digital screens that alternated from three dramatic movie scenes and were soundscaped by Dorothy’s voice.
Coal Drops Yard
The biggest London retail development of 2018 is finally complete. Named after the old coal yard behind Kings Cross Station, this shopping and leisure destination brings something rich and vibrant to the previously barren site.
What we love
The dramatic architecture. The stores are all centred around a cobbled yard that’s topped with a dramatic roof at one end. This eye-catching structure ascends in a wave-like sweep at one end of the industrial building and is made from gleaming metal, glass and wood. It certainly lends the space gravitas.
The range of experiences. Rather than filled with your typical high street shops, the team behind Coal Drops Yard have ensured it’s home to interesting boutiques and brands that are hard to find anywhere else – from Christopher Raeburn’s stand-alone store to French fabric company Caravane and Tom Dixon’s head office/gallery space. There’s also a stylish array of bars and eateries, from Spirtland to Barrafina.
The launch strategy. The team behind Coal Drops Yard has done a great job of drumming up interest and support from the press, and has staged a number of activations to draw in consumers. It’s been heavily featured in print and online media, its adverts can be seen all over London and the launch weekend provided customers with a number of special events. We particularly loved the pop-up from Wah Nails and the exhibition from Coal to Club that charts the trajectory of the area.
The branding. Bold, creative and fun, the branding for Coal Drops Yard is the first thing we noticed about it. It feels a world away from the more corporate identity that you might find associated with a normal shopping centre or district.
The bowl Selfridges
Always willing to push the boundaries of what a department store can be, Selfridges is transforming into a skate-park for a few months.
What we love
It’s unexpected. Streetwear and skate culture-inspired clothes are nothing new to luxury stores, however placing a skate ramp inside a store is something pretty special. It gives customers who would never consider shopping in Selfridges the incentive to come inside and raises its awareness amongst streetwear fans.
It offers a unique experience. Named ‘The Bowl’ this wooden structure is located in the menswear department (next to some of the best streetwear lines in the world) and offers members of the public the chance to book a 1-2-1 session with a pro. It will also host open skate sessions for experienced skaters.
The wooden structure. Glamour and skate ranks don’t tend to go hand in hand, however, Selfridges has done a good job of making its version pretty upmarket. Crafted from blonde wood with a sleek curved structure it feels more Scandi cool that Scunthorpe carpark.
Ikea Planning Studio
Ikea has launched its first inner city “Planning Studio” on London’s Tottenham Court Road.
What we love
It’s part of a new strategy. This store marks a significant milestone in Ikea’s ambitious new approach. Ikea is removing its reliance on big-box stores situated well outside of major towns and cities, focusing instead on smaller urban outlets, to engage city-dwelling customers who might not have easy access to a car. Ikea also plans to launch a 24-hour delivery service for all London customers. This will help it meet demand from online shoppers and fight competition from sites like Amazon.
The design. The Tottenham Court Road shop will give Londoners a relaxed and professional experience in which to plan more complex or large-scale projects in the home. Usually large in size, the retailer’s most iconic item, the blue FRAKTA bag, has been given a special mini makeover to celebrate the occasion. The bag has been designed to fit only the essentials such as a set of keys, phone and a wallet.
To celebrate its first birthday, Whisky-Me has opened a bespoke vending machine outside of the Napoleon Hotel in London’s Shoreditch.
What we love
It’s an ultra-fun experience. We’ve seen a number of brands experimenting with in-store vending machines (check out Missguided) however we’ve yet to see too many out on London streets. Whisky-Me has managed to do something that feels novel and fresh for London. Behind the concept is Thomas Aske, who is ‘on a mission to reinvent whisky’s stereotypically serious image with a fun, contemporary approach and a belief that everyone should be able to enjoy delicious whisky without being a connoisseur’.
It caters for whisky lovers. Yes, this initiative is about making whisky accessible, however, the product sold is quality stuff. The Black Rock Bar in Shoreditch is behind the vending machine and they have filled it with over 12 expressions that aim to show off the versatility of the single malt. Stocked are whiskies from world-famous distilleries such as Macallan, Royal Lochnagar and Aberfeldy.
Each plastic pouch costs £7.95 and is only available to buy after 5 pm with tokens from the Napoleon Hotel. The machine will stay open for the whole December/January party season.