Bazaar choice

Barneys, New York – VALERIE WICKES, DIN GRAPHICS – I love New York. I love Barneys. I’m definitely a wannabe Barneys babe. Barneys is everything Harvey Nichols wants to be.

Barneys, New York


I love New York. I love Barneys. I’m definitely a wannabe Barneys babe. Barneys is everything Harvey Nichols wants to be. It has space.

Cool, easy floors are cleverly arranged to inspire and seduce, presenting the latest collections with appropriate reverence.

The planning appears businesslike – perfect for really serious shopping. Escalators sweep you up to Barneys’ higher echelons where, among the designer wear, you discover light staircases that dip down from one floor to another tempting you to explore some more.

The design is effortless and contemporary, there are no visible themes, curved panels or irritating detail. Mirrors lean glamorously and floors shimmer.

Long before I visited it I fell for Barneys. I was captivated by its neat leatherette bags and quirky advertising campaigns. For the moment Barneys is still one of my favourite stores – along with Liberty, any charity shop and Atkinsons scrap yard in London’s Colliers Wood. All of these can make the heart beat faster and the purse strings loosen.

With uniqueness in short supply and retail chains getting a tighter grip on the world, what I like most about Barneys is the fact that it isn’t here.

Tokyu Hands, Tokyo


There are a lot of shops I like, but the one that I always return to and always get a buzz from is a shop in Tokyo called Tokyu Hands. There are several of them around Japan now, but the flagship store in Shibuya is the one I’ve been visiting for quite a number of years. I’ve been going to Japan since 1982 and I can’t quite remember when Tokyu Hands opened, but on the particular trip that I actually discovered it I spent almost an entire day in the store.

It’s on about seven floors and is the only store I’m aware of that offers the definitive selection of specific speciality and general items. For example, if it’s a penknife you’re after, there will be at least 50 to choose from, there are 100 toothbrushes and 30 different rucksacks. Probably my favourite floor is the basement, which houses the hardware department, where you’ll find nails, hooks, nuts and bolts and screws in every conceivable metal and colour. You’ll find every size of rubber tubing, plastic matting. In fact, whatever you need, it’s down there! The electrical department is amazing. Apart from the obvious tape recorders and radios, it sells little printed circuits and electronic equipment you didn’t imagine even existed in your wildest dreams – but it is Japan, remember. Unbelievable. If you visit Tokyo I would highly recommend that you visit Tokyu Hands, but leave yourself a few hours because you’ll need it.

The Retti Candle Shop, Vienna


Being asked to nominate a favourite shop from a design point of view has not been easy. It is almost as difficult as selecting the only record you are allowed to take to your desert island, having already agonised over whittling it down to eight!

In my travels over the years, there have been many shops that have excited me, and continue to do so. There is usually a feature that initially attracts, such as ingenious use of space, elegant merchandising techniques or a confident and distinctive façade.

However, there is one shop that has had a profound effect on me, and sparked an interest in retail design, which has become my main professional area.

The Retti Candle Shop in Vienna was designed by the Austrian architect Hans Hollein in 1965. This shop was installed within an ornate classical Viennese building and greatly contrasted with the bland plate glass façades that were around at the time.

The shop is an expression for its merchandise using architectural techniques and materials to communicate without depending on graphics. It is undeniably recognisable and memorable.

The design arouses curiosity and automatically draws you in. It controls the window-shopper by providing two small display windows that enhance both the scale and value of the product.

The entrance reveals the intensity of the hot ‘flame’ coloured interior, seen through the façade of cool, crisp stainless steel. Its timeless styling alludes to a glowing candle with the flickering flame symbolised by the light-fitting cluster that is reflected in mirrors around the shop.

The design and relation of materials is precise and wholly appropriate, resulting in a little symphony of delight. We have been able to enjoy other Hollein shopping gems, such as the two Schullin jewellery shops, but it is this candle shop in Vienna that has been such a seminal influence on me.

Worlds End, London


Retail design rests in the idea that the retail space you enter represents a vivid fantasy of the shop owner that has been captured and realised by the designer/architect.

This gives customers a personal window through which they can almost peer into the mind of the owner and, more importantly, identify and empathise with. This gives a much fuller understanding of the products or merchandise that are on offer and creates a kind of magic that seduces the customer. It is a courtship that the customer willingly participates in.

When shoppers leave the premises, they should feel that they have had a personal experience. They should also feel that the courtship is just the start of what could be a wonderful romance.

Retail design is not about point-of-sale impulse buying or A, B1 group marketing or minimal impersonal spaces. These result in customers feeling either that they are too stupid to understand the environment they are in, or simply leaving, feeling that they have not experienced anything (which is not a courtship, rather a mass experience).

Vivienne Westwood’s Worlds End on London’s King’s Road creates all of the magic that I have discussed. The conversation that took place for its conception must have gone something like this:

Q’We want to make a statement that is anti-modern. What represents the most anti-modern object that you can think of?’

A’The cuckoo clock.’

From this starting point the shop was created, fusing with it the idea of a pirate ship, that complemented the look of the first fashion collection to be sold there. The huge clock with 13 numbers and the hands spinning backwards over the small turquoise window panes and the grey slate shopfront seduce you to enter this little time machine. When you do you are immediately disoriented by a slanting floor and offset central pillar that add to the magic of the experience.

The genius of this store is that although its main statement is centred around time it is, in effect, timeless. You cannot fit it into any design pigeon hole or say it is inspired by the Seventies or Eighties, for example. It stands alone, never boring, never out of fashion. Its original statement remains true that to be modern one has to think in terms of being anti-modern.

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