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Whistles - Plays a new tune

The chain with the boutique attitude is given a makeover that mixes a luxury boudoir with antiques and minimalism

In a busy back street off London's Oxford Street, womenswear chain Whistles is enjoying the fruits of a revamp at its flagship store on St Christopher's Place.

The 2,400sq ft shop's location is perfectly suited to Whistles' boutique-style approach. Sited on a square lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, it lures a sophisticated and fashionable crowd.

According to brand director Amanda Burrows, the revamp, which happened last month, is part of a project to evolve the store look and put the focus back on product.She says: "The older look was very eclectic and quirky, but it was more about the store - the clothes weren't shining through enough. We wanted to retain the eclectic quality, but make it more about the product."

The company appointed retail design firm Brinkworth to work on the refit, but also enlisted the help of two freelance interior stylists, Amanda Koster and Finola Inger. The pair scoured a variety of sources to find all the furniture, decorations and objects in the shop.

The refurbishment included a rejig of the space and layout. Coast, which like Whistles is owned by Mosaic Fashions, opened next door and took part of the original Whistles shop. To compensate Whistles opened up the first floor, which was previously used for storage. This now houses the 20 or so bought-in brands, while the retailer's eponymous own label has the ground and basement floors.

The result is a clean, light and spacious interior that mixes modern minimalism with elements of a luxury boudoir feel with other more homely touches. Elegant plaster mouldings have been attached to the white walls, creating plenty of surface detail. Floors are stone, while the long cash desk on the ground floor is set off by porcelain light fittings above. Fitting rooms are generously proportioned.

On the first floor, an elegant chaise longue sits in the changing area where cubicles are draped with lace curtains. There are mirrors backed with antique textiles, plus wood cabinets, painted shoes, old telephones, and walls decorated with vintage knick-knacks.

The signature Whistles pink neon light logo remains, adding to the eclectic theme.

Burrows says sales in the store are up 40% since the revamp and opening hours have been extended by an hour in the evenings. A new shop on Northcote Road in Clapham, south-west London, will get the same treatment when it opens in the autumn, and there is a plan to revamp what Burrows calls the chain's "dark stores".

Burrows says one indication that the look has struck a chord with shoppers is that they regularly ask about the fittings and decorations, and where to get them. "In terms of the shopfit, we've created a kind of chocolate box approach, which means it's very flexible and we can take elements of the concept and use them in different stores where appropriate. There's a calmer feeling in store now, and people seem to stay here for longer."

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