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Alizari, Chester

The award-winning womenswear retailer’s country house shopfit takes full advantage of its Grade 1-listed site

Located in a Grade 1-listed building on the famous Chester Rows, Alizari, winner of the Womenswear Retailer of the Year prize at last years Drapers Awards, oozes country house luxury.

Alizari’s huge, lead-framed windows, which run across the building’s entire Tudor frontage, are undoubtedly the focal point of the store design. Inside, the wide oak floorboards and bespoke oak units with black ebony inlays, which pick out the black in the windows, create a polished but homely atmosphere. The store opened in February 2008 after six months of restoration.

“I designed the interior myself after falling in love with the building,” says owner Ali Kynaston-Mainwaring. “So many shops go for a minimalist look but I wanted to create a warm and friendly feel.”

Kynaston-Mainwaring succeeded, bringing in chandeliers which instead of dangling low from the ceiling, spread out width-ways, almost branch-like, with dangling “icicles”.

French lacquered black bureaus displaying Alizari’s jewellery collection adorn the grand, yet cosy, 6,400sq ft space, while comfy sofas with fluffy cushions sit on large rugs. The central staircase - the original was restored - connects all four floors of this large store, which houses designer separates on the ground and first floors.

Alizari’s mix of about 20 brands, including James Lakeland, Marc Cain and Ralph Lauren, is perfectly pitched to its customers, bridging the mainstream and premium womenswear markets. Price points range from more affordable Marc Cain jeans at £120 up to Ralph Lauren pieces at £220.

“If we like a brand we buy into it deeply, so product is merchandised by brand,” explains Kynaston-Mainwaring. “That’s why our clients like working with us.”

Footwear, bags and belts displayed along the top of the oak fixtures support the womenswear labels, which mainly occupy side-facing rails, while mannequins are used on all floors and along the window.

The second floor houses eveningwear and occasionwear from Amanda Wakeley, Frank Usher and Roberto Cavalli, while a personal shopping suite - currently closed for refurbishment until the summer - sits on the third floor. With its own kitchen, lounge area and changing rooms, the personal shopping area fits into Kynaston-Mainwaring’s “homely” design strategy.

As for changing rooms, Alizari provides six of them, including one on the third floor, all of which have black and white curtains.

But for Kynaston-Mainwaring, the large windows and bespoke furniture come second to the store’s real attraction - her resident cat, Hugo. More sociable than the rest of Kynaston-Mainwaring’s feline family, in­cluding Max, Mara, Calvin and Gucci, Hugo is a regular feature of the store.

“He’s a real character,” laughs Kynaston-Mainwaring. “The customers love him - he’s a real star.”

Alizari 39-41 Bridge Street Row, Chester

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