I love the art of window dressing. A really good shop window can literally stop you in its tracks and make you go inside and buy something. Selling tools don’t get much more powerful than that. Visual merchandising is still one of the most important and exciting aspects of shopping and yet so often it’s viewed by retailers large and small as an unecessary expense and something of an outmoded art form.
During a recent trip to Leeds city centre I came across some interesting window display designs. Admittedly most of them are by high end fashion retailers and sadly this is because they are one of the few types of business that seem to a) still see the value of creative and original window display and b) have the budgets to do it properly but I hope these examples can offer a little inspiration to others.
Wayne Hemingway billed Vintage at Goodwood as ‘the festival of our lives’ but did people have the time of their lives whilst there?
Like everything in life, it’s what you make of it. The beauty of this festival is that you could do as much or as little as you liked – and there really was something for everyone. If the forties was your era then you could have taken tea and danced away the three days in the Tanqueray Torch Club or if you prefer the Seventies vibe, you could have camped out in the Soul Casino, with its dodgy working men’s club carpet and bouncy dance floor.
But most people were happy to take a whistle-stop tour of the decades and dip their fashionably shod toes into most things. Where else could you see such wonderfully incongruous sights as bowler-hatted, tweed-clad chaps raving to 80s house music in the Audi Quattro warehouse or an immaculately dressed woman in a tea dress, nylons and hat, skating at the Roller Disco?
Boredom was not an option. Even if you’d had enough of shopping the myriad vintage clothes sellers or drinking Pimms on an old fashioned double-decker bus, impromptu entertainment came in the form of a barber shop quartet or a bevy of beauties parading in their bathing costumes.
Where else could you get your hair styled with Victory Rolls and lips painted pillar-box red, learn how to knit or dance the jitterbug, play musical bingo at The Festival of Britain pub, judge the competition at the Bad Art salon or the Chap Olympiad and indulge in some good old fashioned, white knuckle ride style entertainment, watching the dare-devil riders at the Wall of Death?
I’ve always loved shops and as a journalist I’ve always written about retail. Two years ago I took a career break to have a family but some things never change and when I’m in a good shop, filled with gorgeous, unique, design-led stuff, it still gets me excited. And it just goes to show, you can find it anywhere, even on a day out at a stately home like Newby Hall in N.Yorks.
We did the usual things; picnic, adventure playground, paddle boats, ice creams and a saunter round the grounds. And, as usual, we had to exit via the gift shop. I was expecting the same old merchandise: Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries, flowery coasters and naff cuddly toys but this time something had changed.
Everywhere I looked there was cool, aspirational, beautiful stuff; more importantly, things I actually wanted to buy!
Such as? Well, contemporary British art and original printmaking by artists like Ed Kluz and Jonny Hannah, lighting by Hannah Nunn, soft furnishings by Lush designs, scented candles by True Grace and the best range of funky, retro kids’ toys I’ve seen for some time (ie the kind of things that your kids love to play with and you love to look at) including Big Red Tomato and classic cars and robots by Schylling.
The person responsible for this transformation is Daniel Hornsey who now manages The Shop @ Newby Hall from April to September. He also runs the gallery at 3 Kirkgate, Ripon, which sells all this and much more. Check it out at http://www.hornseys.com/