Retail concepts

Let’s hear it for tech-cessories!

Considering how many people are now mixing business with leisure (this is henceforth to be called bleisure according to Sunday Times Style), it’s surprising how lacking the market is in sexy little tech-cessories. The Sunday Times article coincided with a pow-wow one Thursday evening between a bunch of bloggers and some tech experts (tech-sperts?) from Dell to discuss the topic of women and technology. The general consensus was that just making a laptop in rainbow colours wasn’t enough to get women to buy a particular brand of technology. However, being the sucker I am for a nice luxury leather-good, I would certainly consider spending on a sleek little laptop case or Blackberry sheath if it ticked all my design boxes (i.e. no big logos, minimalist styling, ultra plain or ultra graphic print). Mulberry must have seen me coming as it has just launched a hot new hook-up with Apple consisting of a whole array of cases to clothe your MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPod, iPhone ad infinitum.

Liberty has also jumped on the tech-cessory trend with its Samsung collab. Buy a Samsung X-series notebook at Liberty (yes, really) and you can buy the coordinating Angel Jackson bag at a 30% discount (below). The bag doesn’t speak to me unfortunately (too showy) but I quite like the concept. If it was a notebook-sized Hermes Constance I might reconsider.

Boys haven’t been left out either. The H by Harris quilted laptop case has received major blog loving, and rightly so, as has the not-leather-but-still-very-nice Gareth Pugh/Colette/Another Magazine iPhone cover and MacBook Pro sleeve.

Meanwhile, Kim Jones preceeded Mulberry with his Dunhill MacBook Air case last year.

All I need now is someone clever (Eley Kishimoto? APC? Vivienne Westwood? Mmm, yes to her squiggle print…*) to release some natty new pochettes for my Blackberry Bold to wear.

The Mulberry bags were launched on Apple’s European website and Mulberry stores on November 1st and will be available on from December 1st.

*but please not PPQ, Giles or Henry Holland, give someone else a go!

Canape-watch at Anthropologie

If you’ve never been to America before, prepare yourself for a whopping great shock when you first visit Anthropologie which opens in London this week. It’s a fashion store but unlike anything you’ve ever seen. If you thought Selfridges, Dover Street Market and The Shop At Bluebird were temples of loveliness, this place will knock your sequinned Miu Miu socks off. Firstly, the space itself is a beauty to behold. A former Wedgewood store, the building has been gutted and rebuilt with a spectacular staircase and Anthropologie’s signature love-worn fittings slotting nicely into place. A tremendous amount of thought goes into the interior of all Anthropologie’s stores, ensuring each store has its own identity. And when I say a tremendous amount of thought I mean like having a wall made of (according to Grazia) 11,000 plants which are watered via rainwater collected from the roof.

Anthropologie is a fashion store that doesn’t really do ‘fashion’ fashion and that’s exactly what I like about it. It’s a boulder-shoulder free zone! Instead you’ll find preppie blazers with elbow patches, an array of super-skinny jeans (minus the need for fake tears and fading), artfully embroidered cardigans and lots and lots of beautiful costume jewellery merchandised the way only Anthro knows how – piled in multiples. The visual merchandising is the real hero of the show here, there is not a single area where your eyes can rest without feeling inspired. For me, it’s all about the lifestyle elements, the vintage furniture (although don’t expect it to be cheap), rustic quilts, kitchenalia, stationery, won’t-find-anywhere-else books, a display of alarm clocks and a wall handpainted in different shades of green.

And so to the canapes. I was given a sneak preview this afternoon at a press tea party and as expected, this wasn’t just a few platters from Pret. We had cheesecake, we had raspberry tarts, we had sandwiches, we had cupcakes, we had scones … shall I go on? In fact, it’s a shame Anthro doesn’t have its own little cafe but hey, I suppose it’s good to keep us wanting more…

Anthropologie opens on Friday at 158 Regent Street, W1. Only two more sleeps to go….

John Lewis joins the online revolution

Wow, John Lewis is really pulling out all the stops. First the AW08 and SS09 ad campaigns with Karen Elson, then a fashion push in its online offering (fashion currently comprises only 6% of total sales, it aims for 30% by the end of the year). Online branded fashion and beauty ’boutiques’ are being rolled out with a total of 16 expected to be in place by the end of the year with Ralph Lauren, Bobbi Brown, Orla Kiely and Mulberry some of the names being bandied about so far.

On digging further, I’m told that the goal of this new push is to ‘reflect the instore experience online’. As well as translating the expertise that John Lewis prides itself on (Marie O’Riordan, ex-editor of Marie Claire, provides the trend tips), there is a focus on convenience. Customers can return their unwanted items to a branch instead of dealing with post offices (and postal strikes) and possibly – this is still being trialled – pick up purchases from a local Waitrose store. This is the kind of initiative that might get me interested as I’ve still not been bitten by the online bug.

Incidentally, Tesco has just launched its own fashion ecommerce site and Selfridges is aiming to follow suit with the full-on online fashion experience next year, so 2010 is really shaping up to be the year online fashion goes fully mainstream. But back to John Lewis. Still on the ‘expert’ tip, for the last year the store has been expanding on its personal shopping service. This month, the focus is on fashion guidance for graduates. Graduates going for job interviews will be invited to bring in interview-appropriate pieces from their existing wardrobe to be teamed with key items from John Lewis to bring them up to date. Tips on general professional presentation (nails, hair etc) are all part of the service. What a good idea. If there’s one thing the recession has done, it’s making retailers try harder and initiatives like this should help give John Lewis the edge over competitors. Let’s see what they come up with next.

London Fashion Week ss10 – The Sartorialist

When I turned up at the Sartorialist book signing at Liberty last week, I never in a million years expected the queue to stretch from one side of the store to the other, and then some. It was the longest queue ever! And there at the front was Scott shaking hands and making small talk with each and every punter. Having been gifted a book already by Mr Gentry, I was only there for the champagne but I overheard enough excited Sartorialistees to gather that the wait was more than worth it. Funnily enough, everyone was majorly dressed up which made me think that Scott would have been far happier our front snapping his fans than behind a desk. However, he was joined part-way through by Mrs Sartorialist (AKA Garance Doré) so didn’t seem too put out.

I had read that there would be Sartorialist-curated areas throughout the menswear area but when I asked I was told ‘this is it’. It was basically huge blow-up Sartorialist pictures displayed amongst gentlemanly arrangements of hats, umbrellas, coats etc. The effect wasn’t what I’d expected but it looked great and I think (hope) it will be in situ for a while. It’s in the basement menswear department if you want to have a look.

They used my favourite Sartorialist pic of George Cortina – apologies for this blurry excuse of a photo which I took on my Blackberry…