Karen Millen

Glass window display and interior units – new Brompton Road store and other stores in central London.

Glass window display and interior units – new Brompton Road store and other stores in central London.

Design: Brinkworths Design & Build Agency

Silka Gebhardt, Senior designer, Brinkworths

“We’ve worked with Karen Millen for nine years, designing all its corporate identity and interiors. Originally, we created a new window display prototype using UV bonded glass for Bluewater and, as a result of that, the company decided to use UV bonded glass window displays in all 40 Karen Millen stores in the UK.

“But we got so fascinated by the process [that] we started to design interior units for some of their new London stores. We started out designing units for shoes – which is a new departure for Karen Millen. Then we decided to use it for freestanding hanging units for clothes.

“Glass is a fantastic material and the process of UV bonding – glueing glass to glass – had been around in Europe for about three years, but it’s relatively new here. A fairly new type of clear glue has to be used – you can’t see it and there’s no other component used in the construction. The glue is harder than the glass itself, so it’s a very interesting process. It’s not expensive but you do need very good craftsmanship because the glass has to be polished perfectly. We found an excellent company that does it, Grey & McDonnell, based in east London.

“At the moment, some of the stores feature both window display and interiors fixtures using the new bonded glass, some just have the window display.

“The new flagship store on London’s Brompton Road which opened last Christmas, has two 3-4m long UV glass display units, one is a table for shoes and one is for clothes. We’ve also designed a free-standing hanging rail made of UV glass, holding a silver pole, so the clothes look like they float in space. At the moment, this rail can only be seen at the new South Molton Street store but it will be going into the new High Street Kensington store as well.

“This type of glass has so many advantages: on the free standing unit, for instance, your view doesn’t get blocked and the clothes are always lit perfectly through the light in the shop – it just shines through the glass. It gives the clothes a more exclusive, covetable quality. And it echoes a museum casing – which adds perceived value to the clothes on sale. The clothes look magical – they float – but you can’t see the fixing.

Adam Brinkworth, Partner, Brinkworths

“From a retailer’s point of view, the nice thing about this type of glass is that it’s very hard wearing and it’s very neutral, it doesn’t really clash with anything.

“From our point of view, it’s very easy to work with. And Keven Stanford (Karen Millen managing director) has always liked glass.”

Kevin Stanford, Managing director, Karen Millen

“For Karen Millen, this new interiors concept is a very exciting development.

“It started with the shoe design and developed from there – I think we’ll probably be using more and more of these types of units in the future. The great thing about them is they’re virtually invisible – you only look at the clothes. And if you think about it, people don’t come in to look at the furniture – they’re in the store to look at the clothes.

“Karen Millen goes back a long way with Brinkworths; the consultancy fitted our first shop in the King’s Road in 1990 – with a budget of £8000 – and it delivered on time and on budget, so we gave the group another one and that’s how it developed.

“There’s a lot of trust in a relationship like this; it works well because we keep each other on our toes. It’s too easy to get complacent.”

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