Sunday, 15 February 2009

Liberty's spring 09 relaunch: a retail renaissance

I had a good nose around London's favourite and oldest department store yesterday after Liberty unveiled its new look on Valentine's Day.

The revamp features an innovative and more curated layout with a series of themed rooms to showcase different collections, as part of the luxury department store’s “Retail Renaissance” strategy.

The changes to the store structure will be in sympathy with the period quality of the building. The famous wood panelling taken from two former Royal Navy ships remains, of course, but the designers are ensuring that plentiful light is drawn from the glass above the central atrium and uncluttered store design. The store colour palette will be a cool bone and all the fixtures shades of metallic anthracite. The emphasis of the new Liberty will be on the best edited and focused fashion, accessories and homewares collections from around the world.

At the forefront of the changes in-store is creative consultant Yasmin Sewel. The ex-Browns buyer has spearheaded the store’s transformation, focusing on women’s and men’s fashion and accessories, and a layout re-think.

Kicking off she has dedicated a large part of the ground floor accessories area to a new Bazaar gifting department. “We’re introducing a fast-paced Bazaar on the ground floor,” explains Sewell. “It’s a reminder of the store’s origins, when buyers would scour the world to bring back unusual, rare and precious items. Customers will find a wide and eclectic range of items, many of which will be limited edition and always changing.” This room takes its visual inspiration from a traditional bazaar; tables with intricate wooden mosaic inlay display the must-have items for that week. These range from Baptiste Viry grosgrain ribbon buckle cuffs to Nymphenburg porcelain heart shaped key rings, Carlos Falchi patchwork hobo bags, Muhlbauer nautical flat caps and 20s inspired turbans to quilted Indian picnic blankets and guides to every city in the world.

Just next door the jewellery room has changed to become a dedicated scarf showcase - with the most extensive offer in London where established brands like Fendi, Givenchy, Pucci, Liberty of London and Dries Van Noten will sit alongside exclusive lines from Josh Goot, David Szeto and Wolf & Descourtis. We love the head turning array of turban styled mannequin displays and zebra prints on the walls.

On the next two floors covering contemporary and international women's designer collections you can see Sewell's hand having the most effect.

On the first floor in the International Room, Sewell’s focus has been on brand mix. Sophisticated collections from established brands hang next to a younger generation of designers. Christopher Kane sits next to Balmain, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein sit with Josh Goot and Ohne Titel and Antonio Berardi with Alexander McQueen. Sewell says it's this clarity of offer that women are looking for when they shop as well as an element of discovery. "They want to mix ‘killer pieces’ by established and burgeoning designers." Edited collections from all the designers in this room are arranged so that standout, show-stopping pieces are merchandised with a comprehensive selection of items to wear them with. The seated army of mannequins display Sewell's must have seasonal pieces - basking in the central atrium light from above.

Moving through to the central atrium is the Avant Garde room. A black matte floor provides the perfect backdrop to Liberty anchor brands such as Rick Owens, Martin Margiela, Acne and Dries Van Noten who will have their own distinct corners - more immersion into designer spaces like this please!

The Essentials and Contemporary rooms on the second floor have anthracite rails running through them and octagonal mirrored fitting rooms forming
free-standing pods that flood light into the space. Tableaus of mannequins form clusters throughout these rooms breaking down how to wear seasonal trends.

In Essentials Acne provides a chino bar, denim comes from brands such as Current/Elliott and there's a comprehensive mix of t-shirts, cashmere jumpers and trench coats from brands such as Splendid, American Vintage, Aquascutum and APC.

Contemporary sees archetypal Liberty brands such Vivienne Westwood, Vanessa Bruno, Future Classics and Luella sit alongside new editions such as Australian Tina Kalivas and the Cacharel 50th anniversary collection consisting of archive pieces reworked in their original Liberty prints.

And don't miss a comprehensive footwear floor with one of the best designer offerings around - Marni, Alaia, Chloe and Rupert Sanderson next to Miu Miu, Givenchy and Prada.

Liberty's VIP concierge service has also shifted up a gear with a revamp of the private shopping area now called the Style Service suite - members can book in to shop the entire department store's offer in privacy and with expert style advice from the Liberty team of experts.

Check out my Picasa album photo file for a visual walk through here:
Liberty spring 09 relaunch

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