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And now for something completely different



If 2009 was the year of the pop-up shop, then 2010 is set to be the year of the concept store. In the UK (OK, London), Dover Street Market and The Shop at Bluebird first set the tone, Liberty followed suit with its personal touches and now Anthropologie has raised the bar further. Couturelab, the online luxury portal recently opened its beautiful concept store on Davies Street, an outlet that is just as compelling as its online counterpart. Meanwhile, Darkroom (above) has just opened in Lambs Conduit Street selling under-the-radar fashion alongside interiors with in-store exhibitions a major focus.

Come January, Harvey Nichols London’s newly spruced-up fourth floor is set to be the next big buzz. It will have a concept store feel with a frequently evolving product mix including exclusive and limited edition collections, a Lanvin ‘supermarket of luxury’ curated by Alber himself and a buy-it-or-regret-it collection of vintage magazines (ooh), furniture (aah) and books (I’ll take ’em all).

The keyword for concept stores seems to be ‘edit’. It’s all about the precise mix of labels and the perfect ratio between new, vintage and limited edition. I think the other key point is to keep things changing constantly. Every time I visit a store I want to discover a surprise, something that wasn’t there before. It’s all part of the experience, otherwise why brave the crowds when I can shop online anytime and pretty much anywhere?
By the way, the concept store trend isn’t limited to London. There is a major luxury concept store arriving in Manchester in February 2010. Hervia, the company responsible for eight of Vivienne Westwood’s standalone stores is behind Hervia Bazaar, an impressive-sounding retail space and etail site. Designers slated for the store include Comme Des Garcons, Sibling, Zero+Maria Cornejo, Rick Owens and Gareth Pugh alongside lesser-known names such as shoesmiths Michael Lewis and Atlanta Weller.

Exciting, no? Watch this space for further updates…



The party season starts here…



Top marks to Topshop for their latest innovation “Dress Me Up” dress hire. Kicking off in the Topshop flagship today, it’s a short n sweet retail concept that allows customers to hire – and possibly buy – a one-off dress for the party season. Between now and 6th December, you can browse the rails and drop the hangers all over the floor try stuff on before booking your chosen piece to hire between 7th and 23rd December. All dresses have been donated by designers and celebrities* and can be hired for two nights for a pretty reasonable £40 although a bigger deposit will have to be left in case you run off with them of damage. All dresses will be auctioned at the end of the event. (Can I just say before anyone gets any funny ideas that I have first dibs on the Richard Nicoll. Thank you.)

As much as I like the idea, I’m most impressed with Topshop’s choice of charities set to benefit from this initiative – proceeds from the hire fees and auction will go to Help The Aged and Age Concern. I love that Topshop, the brand that’s synonymous with youth, has decided to raise money for our elders. Nice one Toppers!

In a similar vein but without the fanfare and charity donations, is Dresseduptothe9s, a site where you can hire high-end dresses or rent out your own posh frocks to make some extra pocket money. It all makes perfect sense to me, why not give your dresses a second life if you’re not going to wear them but don’t want to throw them away?

*PS, word is that Lady Gaga has donated a dress to Topshop …. Let the bunfight commence.