I tend to ignore invites to store openings – stores seem to open at the same frequency with which they close in the current global market. And invites to tour a new store? Nix those. I’m more than proficient at making my way around any given retail space, especially when it’s a Burberry store where, as my American Express can attest, I have no problem finding my way from door to product to till. But an invite to tour Burberry’s new flagship store on London’s Regent Street is not to be sniffed at, even admist the hubbub of London Fashion Week. Burberry’s new flagship is, after all, a glimpse into the future of fashion retail.
Burberry is as obsessed with the future as it is with the past. It thrives on both. It games Twitter whenever it holds a catwalk, relentlessly pursues the latest net platforms from the proven (Instagram) to the suspect (Google+), and has mastered the art of YouTube through its Burberry Acoustic initiative. None of these are e-commerce initiatives. What they are, however, are an unending reminder of the British fashion house’s other core strength: it’s history. Every tweet is a reminder of Thomas Burberry’s prorsum knight, every music video a reminder of the brand’s English extraction – all of it is heritage infused modernity. And that fusion, so mastered by Burberry in the digital world, bleeds from the binary into the real on Regent Street.
Walk up from Picadilly and amongst the portico clad grandeur of Regent Street you’ll find Empire House. Fairly modern for a street scape that otherwise seems dominated by Georgian-cum-Regency aesthetics, the House (named that only to imply modesty I assure you) is part of an area for Regent Street’s namesake in 1820 and incorporated into the later 1924 building which now stands on the site. It has, in its time served as everything from a theatre to livery stables. And, as it began its life as the centre of English finery, so it returns courtesy of Burberry’s painstaking renovation. I tell you this to give you a sense not just of the perfect retail position that Burberry has found in Empire House, but also of the perfect heritage they’ve secured.
Secured and cajoled. Most brands, heritage or otherwise, are wont to move into a space and bastardise it to their needs. Not so Burberry. They have long learnt the seemingly dark craft of perfect adaptation. The theatre space that once graced the amalgamated Westmoreland House remains but is no longer dominated by a stage but rather by a multistorey screen prepped for catwalk livestreams. The stage too remains in sprit; one capable of rising from the floor now sits in its place awaiting the first of many Burberry Acoustic performances. Up where the Royal Box once looked down over the perfomance space is a private hideaway where Burberry’s bespoke trench coat service, previously limited to the digital realm, can now be enjoyed in person, exclusive to Regent Street (beside it sits the Regent Street exclusive collection which figure into the photo gallery accompanying this post). The space where ladies may have once powdered their noses shall soon be occupied a Burberry Beauty room. The elements of the Burberry brand, from the enjoyable to the e-commerce, that had once been solely digital have now bled into the real world and found a home in their Regent Street flagship.
And just as it is in the digital world, every element of the new Burberry store has the Burberry touch. The marble upon which you’ll walk is no ordinary marble, if there is such a thing. Instead it has been especially quarried and customised for the brand, the hue turned from what nature intended into the specific shade of Burberry tan. Walk up the stairs crafted in the same hue and you’ll find yourself on the respective men’s and women’s Prorsum floors. Here fitting rooms aren’t merely decked out with mirrors but reflective screens which can display information about select products you’re trying on, the content taken from Burberry’s online endeavours and highlighting both the brand’s heritage and craftmanship. History infused with digital indeed.
Burberry’s new London flagship store sits at 121 Regent Street. It is not yet the future of fashion retail, but it is its foundation. It is a glimpse of fashion retail as it’ll come to be – a blur between the physical and the digital, a retail space laden with concepts proven online and then adapted to bricks, mortar and marble, a world in which stores are more akin to experiential galleries (think of any Apple store) than spaces concerned with how many products can be rammed in front of customers. It is an experience worth having.
You can see the Burberry Prorsum Regent Street-exclusive collection of clothes and accessories by clicking on the thumbnails and browsing through the gallery.