“Last fall, prior to heading to Paris for the fashion market, Jim and I did a quick 48 in London to check out what was happening on the retail scene”
In many ways London is the place to look for the last vestiges of the great old-school department store. These institutions remain alive and well in this city center. We plotted our route to tour all the majors, and as was the case during our visit five years ago, Selfridges came out on top. From the amazing displays celebrating the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and the Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusma (with her larger-than-life effigy heralding visitors into the main entrance of a building wrapped in her signature red and white dots) to the impeccably designed designer “shop-in-shops” (Tom Ford and Celine were especially remarkable), everything at Selfridges seemed to hold a pristine shine. Harvey Nichols felt a bit stuck in the late 90s, but it still boasts a well curated vendor assortment – especially on the women’s contemporary floor. Harrods remains quintessentially Harrods – more is more – with maybe the best assortment of men’s shoes on the planet. And at often over-looked Fenwick we came across a very strong assortment of well priced costume jewelry and a wonderfully creative women’s dress line we will add to our assortment at space519 for spring. Liberty remains the sentimental favorite – there is just nothing like walking through their fresh flower market on the way into the store – with all the scents of the season enveloping you. Their apothecary section is tops – with a winning assortment of products at all price levels. And I also especially loved their scarf bazaar and the creative assortment of vintage furniture retooled with their signature Liberty of London fabrics.
For specialty stores Brown’s has a impressive roster of emerging and established designers, but the main store on South Molton needs a brush-up. The well worn carpets and walls distract from the merchandise. Dover Street Market is worth checking out – but the industrial minimalist displays, art installations and effected salespeople all read a bit dated. On the other extreme Wolf and Badger (pictured right) had a well curated assortment of hard to find men’s and women’s accessories and the manager Joshua was delightful to chat with. The Conran Shop is alive and well in the UK and their shop in Chelsea has a really neat selection of modern home goods. Jim made a detour to The Refinery to find men’s skincare products he can’t buy in the states. And finally we both loved the well priced men’s and women’s pieces at Margaret Howell.
And it can’t all be about shopping. Our hotel, The Pelham London, provided a chic and comfortable home-base for walking everywhere (and their head concierge Jamie had the very best tips). Our big night out was entirely old school. Pre-dinner martini’s in the art deco Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel were it is 1930s Hollywood glamour all the way. I couldn’t stop staring at the Lalique lighting fixtures or the exceptionally well dressed clientele And dinner at Rules (pictured left) hit all the high points. With the strength of the pound the tab was a bit crushing, but I literally felt as if I was sitting in the midst of a Merchant Ivory production. The oriental carpeting, red leather tufted banquettes, and walls covered with art and memorabilia from the two plus centuries they have been in business, create an unbeatable ambiance. The food is traditional British fare and all of it was exceptionally well executed. A delightful split pea soup, beef raised on the restaurant’s own estate served with chips and Bearnaise sauce, and a text book quality sticky toffee pudding. The tuxedo clad waiters had the perfect touch and the intimate upstairs bar was perfect for a nightcap by the fireplace.
All and all, a perfect journey to what has to be my all time favorite city.