Harrods Men's Personal Shopping

Department Store
Harrods Men's Personal Shopping

The New Frontier of Personal Shopping

Fashion journalist Jessica Bumpus speaks to Creative Director Simon Rawlings and Design Director Lewis Taylor about the future of retail design.

Think of your perfect dressing or fitting room. The chances are that David Collins Studio has already designed and built it - be that in a private residential home, a luxury hotel or retail space. Since its inception 37 years ago, the studio’s portfolio of designs has been vast and spectacular. Think, then, of your dream private shopping space. David Collins Studio has definitely actually already built that. At Harrods, in the heart of the menswear department: 813-square-feet dedicated to the very best personal shopping experience one could wish for.

An elegant and private shopping space - which has a masculine meets gentleman’s club feel - was the finishing touch to a four-year long project undertaken by David Collins Studio which saw the whole of the menswear offering finally situated altogether and consolidated on the second floor of the department store. It continued also what has been a successful and ongoing relationship between Harrods and David Collins Studio, which had originally began with the Shoe Heaven collaboration in 2014 and has since gone on to include the dining hall, the food hall and fresh market hall among them.

“I think what we really wanted to create was a series of suites and rooms and lounge areas that you can come as a VIP guest,” explains Simon Rawlings, creative director at David Collins Studio, “or just a guest that needed a little bit of extra help, and enjoy hospitality. Enjoy somebody who could look from the outside in and really help you through the buying process.”

“The personal shopping space is really a room in which you can liaise and coach and enjoy the shopping experience with assistance,” says Rawlings.

Arrival to this exclusive menswear shopping area is discrete: from the main floor, through the men’s accessories and grooming and fragrance rooms. But, built into the experience is also something of a “moment” for the customers who enter: through a textured mirror corridor, there are large expanses of textured glass for glamour and sparkle on big double doors - entirely befitting for that moment of reveal, but also respite and safe haven.

“It feels very closeted,” says Rawlings once inside. “It’s like this very secret private moment, this cosy moment away from the madness of the store.” Among a punchy colour palette of red and dark blue, there is an inviting and residential feel - the latter elements of which have been elevated and amplified to provide that sense of privacy: upholstered with warm low lighting.

“The furniture is extra lounge-y, there are residential touches such as the lighting and the artwork,” says Lewis Taylor, David Collins Studio design director. “The fixtures themselves are more residential and more bespoke, they’re not retail fixtures and fittings.”

A particular note of luxe comes via the collaboration with Loro Piana, the Italian fashion brand that specialises in textiles, which sees the central lounge walls and seating upholstered in its blue cashmere. Everything is soft and padded. “This Loro Piana moment,” describes Rawlings, “really embraces that idea of the crossover between fashion and upholstery and I love that story.” Silk carpets and further cashmere upholstery throughout the space feel comfortable, inclusive, as well as incredibly inspirational. It is a space with a strong identity.

It feels very closeted. It’s like this very secret private moment, this cosy moment away from the madness of the store.

Among the other considerations to take into account with its design was that a private shopping space does not display product, for example. The product is bespoke to you the customer. It therefore has to be more spacious than a typical dressing room - naturally, for all of those clothes. For instance, as Rawlings points out, the product here are likely to be investment pieces and therefore a second, third or fourth opinion might be being sought from friends or family. There is in-built flexibility to the space exactly for this. Wraparound mirrors also provide the full picture. And bathroom facilities make everything easy and in one place. You can spend the whole day enjoying the shopping experience.

“It has to be the best,” says Rawlings. “It’s the best in terms of scale and it’s at the end of the project so we’ve learned through all the other dressing rooms we’ve created.” And in this, it is the ultimate dressing room.

“We had a lot of fun designing the personal shopping space,” says Taylor, explaining how it drew on David Collins Studio signatures, such as the checkerboard monochrome flooring, the exclusive world of Harrods, and the overall DNA of the menswear floor - which was important to throw back to. Every detail and design nods to the original concept of the floor, imagined by David Collins Studio. “We could play around the materiality a little bit more, the detailing the lighting,” he says of the exciting challenge here.

An inset navy blue carpet covers the lounge area, the carpet is finished with a geometric border and realised in Nero Marquina and Bianco Carrara polished marble - the design of which has been inspired by traditional British pocket square designs. Soft woven surfaces contrast with the glamour of texture glass; there’s colourful lacquers; the palette is surprising and unexpected. A bespoke kidney-shaped sofa is upholstered in red mohair velvet and made with grey sycamore featuring brass inset trim. Custom armchairs come in palm wood and stainless steel, upholstered in dark blue cashmere while cushions are upholstered in white and red custom David Collins Studio fabrics. Ceilings are painted in a satin white with inset spotlighting.

The space was conceived very much with multi-function and versatility in mind: personal and private shopping as well as the potential for mini launches. There are sliding doors and separate salons and dressing rooms within, ideal for groups and entourages. The area is available to customers by invite, for industry professionals, or as a place to host in-store events for both Harrods and its brands.

A notable element of “fun”, though, is the fully equipped mixology bar at the centre of the main consultation room, made from walnut veneer with a Silver Wave Grey marble top. Featuring scalloped details, it nods to the cornicing in the Super Brands section of the menswear floor, and is a standout addition to the room. “Everybody loves to have a little drink or a little refreshment while they’re shopping whatever that tipple might be, whether it’s a tea or champagne, it’s about hospitality,” says Rawlings. “It’s about entertaining your clients, it’s about making people feel relaxed and comfortable and you know not everybody enjoys the process of shopping so why not make it fun? Why not make it a new experience? I think the world of shopping now is all about experiences and the more little experiences that we can build into our designs the better.” It is, he points out, a great way to engage with both new and existing customers alike.

“The whole thing just comes together in a very elegant way,” says Rawlings. “We don’t want his room to be bland, we don’t want this room to be uninteresting, we want to excite people.”

Adrien Dirand is an interiors photographer based in Paris

Jessica Bumpus is freelance fashion journalist