Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding, London 2011

Just in case you weren't able to be part of the photo call at Buckingham Palace yesterday, there are a few photo booths around town where you can be either William or Catherine.  Hmmmmm.....unconvincing cheap fun, but ah well who cares eh?

Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Day, London

If you didnt receive your invitation to the big event of 2011 (like us) we can at least enjoy the spectacle from a distance - and this is possibly the best view too.  In the meantime we can of course enjoy the visual of the high street around town anyway for free.
Austin Reed
Butler and Wilson
John Lewis
Peter Jones

Asprey, London

We really loved the images here at Asprey (not Asprey and Garrard, as the PR and Marketing departments do tend to contact us to correct us).  However, a couple of years ago, just by chance we came across and met with Chelsea College of Art alumni Stephen Rosenthal.  The concept here is almost identikit to Rosenthal's work, albeit with different images, but the technique is the same.  Of course Rosenthal's work is far more sophisticated, in depth and hard hitting and includes amongst his work, images gathered over a period of time that "depict the subtext to the characters [that Roesnthal portrays] who have lived a repressed existence within the public glare - much as [he] suspect[s] many contemporary artists are living today in PR relationships which protect the idea of a projected male identity".
Of course, while the concept here does work very well,  it is not actually very original so we do feel a little wrong footed that this has been presented, ya' know, as if we wouldnt find out.  We say this as there is no reference in this concept to any original sources and thats just plain old unfair, right? Check out Stephen Rosenthal's interview from 2009 at to see what we mean.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Juicy Couture, London

This is quite an odd scheme for this brand, don't you think?  From the rather-more-sophisticated schematic version of Topshop to one which one would liken to one of the luxury brands close by, we felt it was quite odd to carry references to Hartnell at this store.  Of course, there are the obvious references to the Royal Wedding, but from stacked suitcases to hammocks to Norman Hartnell is quite a leap.  Oh well, stranger things have happened..........or so we thought.  It seems that these guys are rather more clever than we had given them credit for.  Wasn't this the site (or at least close to) of the original boy-from-Streatham, Sir Norman Hartnell's original store?  We're not absolutely sure, although it was on Bruton street where his store was based.  Genius, and a wonderful reference to the designer who carried the Royal warrant for Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) and Queen Elizabeth II, 1957 and designer of Royal wedding stuff for decades.  Oh you clever Juicy lot...!  What a wonderfully clever Royal reference and one that took us a while to work out.  Brilliant and certainly the most thoughtful scheme we've seen so far.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Accessorize, London

"You can never have enough hats, gloves and shoes" according the character Patsy, played by the ever lovely Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous (1992).  At Accessorize, "you can never have enough stuff, stuff and stuff" (2011)  Of course, we're poking fun a little at the brand, who incidentally we actually rather like.  OK, well they stack everything to the rafters and do cram just about everything into their relatively tiny windows, however they do make an effort and this is commendable.  Naturally, just like any other mainstream brand, they are cashing in on the pending big event on Friday, and who can blame them?  Although if one stands back from this scheme a little it does have rather Pink overtones in between the Union Flag merchandise. 
Purely coincidentally, the activist Peter Tatchell, (we quickly read on-the-hoof in the press on our way to the office -  so please don't quote us on the accuracy of this), has personally delivered to Buckingham Palace, a rather large Pink Message to William and Kate, requesting that they come out (obviously not literally) in support of same sex marriages, in the light of their own high profile marriage.  We have to hand it to Peter Tatchell, that the guy works tirelessly for equality and of course has our full support.  While there is undoubtedly absolutely no connection between the scheme here and Peter's Pink Envelope, it does offer an opportunity to reflect on where we are at, and why people such as Tatchell are still having to fight for a cause that was already won?  Anyway, we're sure Friday will be a day fully Accessorize'd.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Hatchard, London

We don't normally include bookshops on this site, mainly because very little seems to happen within their windows other than the usual stack of books and a large format graphic.  At Hatchard however, the guys have gone the extra mile and included a scheme in conjunction with their publications which just about sums up the events of Friday this week.  Bunting-bonkers, Blue sky, deckchairs and views of St. Paul's Cathedral.  Ahem.....if you park you're deckchair outside St. Paul's, you'll possibly be the only one.  The event will take place at Westminster Abbey.  Still, we understand what these guys are trying to achieve, the scene has been set and at least the tourists seem to appreciate it.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Liberty, London

This is the first entry of a weeks' worth of Royal Wedding celebratory window schemes.  Strangely, not many stores have taken the plunge and included a scheme in their windows.  We say strangely, as it seems that the ones that have included schemes are getting the publicity.  The saddest words in retail are always "a missed opportunity", so retailers either get your schemes in or you're missing the boat.  Anyway, here at Liberty, with their ever clever tongue-in-cheek sense of humour have amused us yet again with an installation based around that iconic vehicle, the Mini and of course the Royal Wedding.  Surrounded with the Union flag in its various forms, perfectly saleable product, and stickers placed on the rear glass declaring 'Granny knows best', Wave your flags in the air like you just don't care' and 'My Big Fat Royal Wedding', couldn't help but raise a smile in us.  We love the plastic Queen on top of the wedding cake waving back complete with handbag, but in particular that this is not a waspish poking fun at the event - wonderfully intelligent and drawing together the strands of thought surrounding what we understand and tweaking it ever so cleverly.  We're dying to see what Barneys in New York will do however.  In the mean time great fun as usual guys.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

L.K. Bennett, London

We're beginning to see more and more schemes around town right now in celebration of the pending Royal Wedding - finally.  It is almost as if everyone was waiting for someone else to take the lead on this and produce a benchmark scheme so that they knew where to pitch their next one.  Here at L.K.Bennet, the team have implemented a cut out cartoon-like scheme surrounding the product with scenes from around Buckingham Palace, including the Palace itself.  Great fun, clean and does what it does.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

London V. New York

Versace: London and New York

NYC Images Courtesy and Copyright Ronald Knoth
In 1987, the film 84 Charing Cross Road, a British/American drama was produced based on a play by James Roose-Evans and letters sent between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel.  In 1949, Helene Hanff in New York while searching for British literature titles noticed an advertisement in the Sunday Review of Literature and contacted the shop Marks and Co. (84 Charing Cross Road, London) and the then manager Frank Doel who fulfills her requests, and so ensues their long distance friendship.  Their correspondence includes a variety of discussions and as their friendship evolves Hanff begins to send gifts and food parcels in order to help Doel during the food shortages of World War II.  Sadly, they never meet. 

Of course with the age of digital technology we're able to send messages at the touch of a button and because of this media it has enabled the wonderful opportunity to work with my incredible colleague Professor Ronald Knoth, at The Laboratory Institute of Technology in New York.  Professor Knoth and I regularly (several times a week) exchange messages from London to New York, and back again, much like Hanff and Doel, although in our case often sharing images of the best (and occasionally the worst) in Visual Merchandising from London and New York.  And thankfully, we have met.  Professor Knoth also writes regularly for his own blog site, in a way I can only aspire to be able to do. 
Here in London, as in New York, we can see the visual effects of the global economy. Personally, I am wholeheartedly in support of localised creativity,  never really understanding the need or want to go shopping in places that have the same presentation and same merchandise that one has spent several hours travelling to?  I have also often felt that part of the shopping experience is surely the enjoyment through the discovery of new 'stuff' that one cant see or buy at home? (steps off podium)
That said, the concept behind this project was to photograph a range of brands from luxury to value retailers at the same time on the same day in our respective cities and taking that moment in time to reflect on where we are or maybe where we want to be?  Are we as visually commercially homogenised as I believe?  Or are there clear visual differentiations between what is happening in London and in New York?  From the visuals here and the ones posted by Professor Knoth at you will of course be able to decide for yourself.  Part of the process of capturing this zeitgeist was to also see what was reflected back at us and therefore we have deliberately captured the views in the fenestration of London streets and New York skylines.

Ralph Lauren: London and New York 
One of the enviable elements of New York store windows from a London perspective are the amount of spaces they have to work within.  So many of the central London commercial spaces are historical buildings (even if only the facade is original) and protected by the UK Government and in much of the case the Crown Estate which limits what can be done with them.  While of course this is not a bad thing, as it is protecting heritage, it does present its own limitations.  In the home country of the brand Ralph Lauren their stores definitely have the upper hand.  Beautifully presented, simply the size of the spaces used here for presentation offers the opportunity to create whole aspirational environments within which to place the product.  Here at the London store, the images also reflect beyond the scheme views along Bond st.

NYC Images Courtesy and Copyright Ronald Knoth
 Fendi: London and New York
The London Fendi site is currently closed (although of course the merchandise is availalbe at places such as Harrods - before this appears on a google search and Fendi correct me).  With the pending Olympics in 2012,  London is being transformed beyond recognition with building work happening the type of which one would only see during times of plenty.  Building sites for cross-rail (a new rail link stretching from East to West through the shopping mecca), facade-ism, and buildings are changing from wealthy hands to wealthy hands.  Many luxury brand stores are swapping places around town right now also, with more on the cards this year for reasons to which I'm not privvy.  In the meantime, the New York store continues to offer, seemingly effortlessly, its merchandise placed as if the mannequins here are waiting for something that's just about to happen.  In London, the hoarding communicates the image of the same scheme in absentia.

NYC Images Courtesy and Copyright Ronald Knoth
 Banana Republic: London and New York
More tea Vicar? In the land of heritage and one that seems to make films albeit in limited amounts that nearly always seem to be staring Helena Bonham-Carter floating around in a period costume and perpetuating the myth that we all all live or lived like this - and of course we do.  Garden tea parties with Her Maj. the Queen naturally fill my diary too.  Banana Republics offering of topiary structures alluding to quintessentially English country gardens set against the exotica background jar rather in a country with one time zone and naturally growing flora (elsewhere) that one could only wish for.  For our American cousins the product has been placed with the use of hangers.     

NYC Images Courtesy and Copyright Ronald Knoth
 Zara: London and New York
Zara, of course is a brand rather closer to home.  OK, well it is a European brand (Spanish) and while we as British seem to consider ourselves as British with Europe attached, we are also equally aware that to everyone else we are all European (but don't say I said so).  With its apparent eccentrics and oddities, borne historically out of suppression, London particularly (within Europe) seems to breed and celebrate more the differentiation and the rawness of creativity while pushing these boundaries.  The New York scheme at Zara, definitely appears to have a kind of enviable Parisian sophistication particularly set against the London 'street' influenced scheme presented here along the Oxford St. branch of the store.   

NYC Images Courtesy and Copyright Ronald Knoth
 H and M: London and New York
Hennes and Mauritz appear to have exploded onto the global retail scene over the past few years.  With its Swedish origins and their collaborations with such heavy weights such as Stella McCartney and Lanvin and their subsequent designs for Ebay....oops.....designs for H and M, we have seen a mammoth growth from this company over the past few years.  Of course, like many of the stores in New York, the H and M stores are, compared to London, of gargantuan proportions, in fact temples of consumerism. London however simply has a lot more of them, kind of shrines in the temples by comparison, although only a matter of 100 metres or so from each other covering every possible customer flow on the high street - ya' know, just in case one of us tries to escape through the city gates without buying anything.

NYC Images Courtesy and Copyright Ronald Knoth

So are we really very visually different?  Well, there are some small differences across the brands that are pictured here although of course essentially they are the same or slightly different versions of the same thing, By the nature of branding, one would expect to see this.  We as British or American while speaking various versions of the same language we are culturally very different and this of course is what makes everything all so interesting and something we can celebrate.  We are not a brand ourselves as such and yet are expected to slot into a category dictated to by these global companies.  Is this right or should we be shouting for greater differentiation?   I would sway towards the latter myself and still believe in harnessing our local creativity rather than trying to fit into a mold dictated to us by a head office that may be a 1000 miles away from the final outcome - but that's just me.  We can see from brands such as Anthropologie and to a certain extent at Diesel that this does work but of course profits sadly rule.  What Hanff and Doel would have made of this one can only speculate and does it matter anyway?  In the meantime, I'm sure Professor Knoth and I will continue to share the best bits of our cities visuals regardless.  On a final note, the site of 84 Charing Cross Road is now a nightclub.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Suit Supply, London

We have passed this store on many occasions but have never really looked that closely at it.  If you're in to suits, then I guess Suit Supply might be a place that you may want to check out?  Situated just off Saville Row and a stones throw from that Californian dystopia by the name of Aber....   oh you know the one, Suit Supply grabbed our attention momentarily for two reasons.  Initially, the mannequins here appeared to be a high gloss Orange (tango-d) version of the Blue Man group, and secondly and most importantly we caught a glimpse of that sly revenge fantasy of male impotence - the graphic behind.  Clearly this is staunchly heterosexual male territory? (Because Gay men dont wear suits, right?)  On the right hand side of the graphic we have the erect nippled tanned female and on the left we initially thought this was a male figure with moobs, however, on closer inspection it appears to be another, albeit nipple-less female.  Both figures are clearly placed in sexually provocative positions as if the vacant and clearly detached male in a suit jacket is God-like and to be worshipped by these tanned nipple-erect and nipple-less females? (we dont agree that this should ever be portrayed and we would never support this thinking, in fact, quite the reverse).  Laughably (and a clear signifyer of male ignorance) quite oddly, the way the graphic has been so badly cut, the image appears as if  the male in the centre of the image is actually sat on a high chair and has very feminine closed legs daintily crossed at the ankles.  The call to action in the text "Like Skin" doesnt seem to live up to the merchandise dressed on the mannequins.  Would you really want your skin to hang so badly?  We really wanted to like this store but sadly the thinking of this brand seems to represent the size of the space it has - tiny.  Just keep walking to either Bond St. or Regent st. on your way through this pass-through street..  

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Daks, London

We were forced to stop and view the latest installation from Daks this week while on our travels.  Large panels covered in (probably a few thousand) pearl-like buttons form two crowns as the backdrop to the product. We're always interested in whats happening out there on the high street, and particularly trying to understand how the 'visual' can be interpreted and the meanings behind how the 'visual' can possibly be read as having.  OK, well one could argue that good old W&C are not King and Queen just yet and and the images do have a bit of the 'Cor-blimey-Guv'nor-knees-up-mother-Brown' about it, particularly as pearl buttons have been used.   However, we do strangely really like it (if that actually means anything), its been beautifully produced, we screeched to a halt to record it and it captures the emotion of the pending occasion quite beautifully.  We don't always appreciate what this brand produce visually, but this time, hands up, job well done we think.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Regent Street, London

Its all hotting up here in the City of London right now that one cant help feeling that there must be a pending Royal Wedding?  Even with our own cynical minds we felt a strange odd pang of pride to be British while walking along an albeit 2011 version of a street scene reminiscent of post-war (1945) Regent street (only in glorious colour, less the techni).  These images are the kind of ones we will reflect on and maybe think "Oh yes, I remember the wedding,.....ohhh... and all those flags on Regent St".  Strangely, these images already look incredibly dated and poor Mrs. Middleton must have been sewing from the Berkshire pad, literally for England and for months.  Photoshop-ing out the cabs and the people, one might feel that one has just stepped onto a film set or did World War II just end?  If you are British and reading this, wouldn't it (strangely) be wonderful to see these kinds of sights more often?  We have finally reclaimed the Union flag back from the less than savoury political wings that paraded it (it seems particularly from the Thatcher years onwards) with such dubious pride and for so long?  We loved this sense of British pride on seeing this view in the heart of retail-land, however we just wish we could see this or these kinds of things  more often?  Sadly, these buildings/street rarely do anything interesting, so just don't get us started on who actually owns them?  Think old lady, big crown, lives in a council house and goes by the name of Liz.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

French Connection, London

This brand seemed to have really lost its way visually although we were quite impressed to see how these guys appear to be turning these aspects of it around.  Following on from quite a sophisticated, albeit, bizarre marketing campaign (did anyone get it?) the team here seem to be re-establishing their direction (even if the text on these banners is still rather obscure).  Although this is a very simple scheme, it does work very well, saying, to us at least... "that this is the merchandise we have so come and get it".  It has huge impact from across the street and we do hope this is the start of ever more interesting schemes to come.  

Monday, 18 April 2011

Miss Sixty / Energie, London

This is such a fun scheme from Energie / Miss Sixty which brought a huge smile to our faces.  These large out sized eyeballs are placed in this repetition format (essentially repetition of radiating forms) some of which wink (or blink?).  We have seen some really great schemes from this brand over time and this is certainly the most fun to date.  Do check out there store along Carnaby Street and take a look yourself.  Another little winner we think.  Thanks Energie / Miss Sixty, great fun.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Desiguel, London

We have to hand it to these guys as they really do make an effort to entice us into their stores.  Desiguel always seem to have such fun schemes in their windows - whether we personally like them or not is absolutely irrelevant, as they clearly really do work hard to entertain us.  What is particularly interesting about this scheme is the appeal to the auditory senses.  In Visual merchandising this is something that is very under utilised in the industry, as is the olfactory appeal.  If you happen to see this scheme and listen above the noise of the traffic on Regent street (no mean feat) one can hear the call of the seagulls (just about) from the fenestration.  Huge applause to these guys for doing something that we no longer see (or hear very much these days).  If you happen to walk along the luxury brand streets one can just smell the luxury oozing from the stores although this is probably not deliberate.  Luxury brands just smell nice anyway.  However, hats off to these guys for the wonderful entertainment and really trying hard to appeal to something more that the usual visual.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Esprit, London

Multiple must be Summer then.  We do quite like the merchandise at this brand but the schemes here just don't seem to reflect it.  However, that said, it does perhaps have a little more identity and and differentiation from some of the stores that surround it.  Its such a shame that these kind of multiple brands stamp the same scheme out of a mold rather than to allow localised creativity which would have enhanced the presentation enormously.  

Friday, 15 April 2011

Belstaff, London

We've only just realised that we've never mentioned this brand on this site before.  We often pass this store along Conduit st. but strangely it always seems to elude us.  Having said that, we've had a closer look at the merchandise and while it is rather pricey it is quite wonderful.  In fact we were drooling over the collections on-line.  Unfortunately, if you wish to buy on-line (and we're not sure this is a brand that one would want to do this with) the site is rather out of date.  Strangely its rich history only leads up until 2006 - bizarre, eh?  Also, the merchandise available on-line is also quite limited.  Looks like a visit to the store is in order.  Anyway, within the window schemes the brand have used old crates in which to present the merchandise.  This is something we've seen a lot of around town since January.  The brand have also used these full bodied generic mannequins in a high gloss  Black finish.   The colours of course of the merchandise are absolutely on trend and we're going to swing by soon and take a closer look.  

Thursday, 14 April 2011

DnA Factory, London

theDnAfactory : Love The Disease : Dulwich Open House Preview.  This, the third and final year of participation for theDnAfactory in the Dulwich Open House sees a preview of several pieces from the new collection : Love The Disease, plus a chance to see an overview of their work for the last five years with selections from the collections : This Human Condition and The China In Your Hand.
Viewing times : 11am - 6pm (daily)
Viewing dates : Saturday 7th May and Sunday 8th May 2011
Venue : 17 Harwarden Grove. London SE24 9DQ
You MUST see this work: Check out the guys at

Burberry, London

We didn't think we would see it, say it (or write it) but we are mightily impressed with the new scheme at Burberry.  We love the way these guys have really changed the existing space in this scheme to bring us these show windows focusing our eyes on the product.  After what seems a lifetime, we finally have a scheme from this brand which is not a re-hash of the traditional Brand design in just about every format possible.  We applaud you Burberry and thank you for finally moving these schemes forward.  We love the product, but the previous schemes were so deathly dull and finally someone has injected a bit of oomph..! into their schemes.  Job well done we think...!...Relief..!

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