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LFW through the looking glass

This year’s London Fashion Week is reported to have kicked off with the largest number of visitors on record.

This matters. London is now described as the leading fashion capital of the world, with the most influential global store buyers and magazine supremos flocking to be part of the action. And it’s not just a media feeding frenzy, as the orders placed here in the coming weeks could play a major part in helping retailers to turn the corner out of recession.

Of course, it’s easy to tell when Fashion Week is on, as the pavements become even more cluttered with tourists with their budget airline-friendly cabin baggage in tow, and shop windows become impromptu gathering points for curious and animated onlookers eager to point at the displays. So, armed with my camera with its battery fully charged and wearing a serious expression and an intimidating stare, I took on the crowds to review a selection of London’s shop windows for Drapers. I was hoping to see something amazing from retailers, given the fashion showcase that has engulfed the city.

Levi’s

The store which steals the show for best windows is Levi’s. I can hear the gasps of disbelief from the big-name designers, but if fashion is about design innovation and making you look and feel good, Levi’s new jeans line for women should be the talk of the town. This window display does exactly what great advertising should. It is focused on the product benefits and executed with a real sense of style and flair. In this, Levi’s has absolutely surprised, as I’d never normally give

its window displays a second look. Simple, sexy, and right for today. An excellent result, which I hope does well for the brand.

Score 10/10

Reiss

With a global presence and about 100 stores, Reiss is a multi-award winning retailer built on solid style credentials. But in both of its shops around Regent Street, I was shocked by displays

that had the wrong sized clothing, poor handling and styling and no accessories or footwear. The mannequin dressing was some of the worst I’ve seen. I wondered if it was an ‘anarchic’ theme reacting against LFW? Illuminated lightbox point of sale displays tried to redeem things, but there was already too much going wrong. Shocking.

Score 1/10

Austin Reed

Had I not known the location or looked up at the fascia, I may have thought that Dorothy Perkins or even M&Co had opened shop on lower Regent Street. The posh-girl-in-a-frock formula for point-of-sale material - you know, the one that’s slavishly repeated on a mannequin in front - is something Next was doing in 1985. Here, it’s still in style 25 years on. Professionally dressed (yawn), fully co-ordinated (yawn), neatly composed - someone please wake me up. Fortunately, a tourist asking me for directions to H&M broke me out of my trance.

Score 3/10

Jaeger and Warehouse

Both stores feature runway-themed displays. It’s not the most original idea, but at least it’s appropriate for LFW. These two different retailers have used very different executions of a similar idea. Jaeger uses mannequins for a strident march down Regent Street and Warehouse has a more photo shoot style with its larger than life PoS cut-outs, which extend from window space to in store. For me Warehouse has the edge, but Jaeger has the position and space to execute this idea to its best potential.

Scores Jaeger 6/10, Warehouse 7/10

Banana Republic

Since its arrival on Regent Street, I’ve been continually disappointed by Banana Republic’s displays. The problem is not that the windows are bad - just that they aren’t good enough. The windows are too big

and have an amateurish look, with questionable use of theming and props, and poor product handling and finishing of garments. They don’t live up to the style or quality the retailer is about. Banana Republic is at its best when the displays are smaller and promote the range in the credible, mid-market way that’s intended.

Score 5/10

Topshop

Topshock! The retailer most revered by the fashion pack has been knocked off its perch this year. The windows still impress, but with a four-metre high foot and platform shoe in the window, they should. You get the point on closer inspection, but closer inspection is not a right. If it takes me more than three seconds to understand I’m already on my way. One window has an illuminated graphic, which will look great after hours but in September, daylight hours are still long.

Score 6/10

Burberry

Burberry has fantastic products, stylish store design and some of the best advertising around. But its windows can be surprisingly hit or miss. Here, a confusing arrangement of mirrored panels with the brand’s signature check are used with mannequins placed in between. It creates a confusing and nauseous effect. Reflecting glimpses of passing limbs, traffic and street clutter, you’re hard pushed to see the product, let alone understand the message. Add to this the static dust factor and you have to be brave to have implemented this.

Score 6/10

Aquascutum

Aquascutum is steeped in history. Producing clothing for the British Army, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, and possessing a clutch of royal warrants, it has been a society stalwart for almost 160 years. In recent times, a series of high-profile brand relaunches with ‘celebrity chief executives’ have tried to refresh the label to maximise its global potential.

In this latest phase, the window displays project a clean, minimalist look using mannequins and Italian-styled photography. We can consider this still to be a work in progress.

Score 4/10

Oasis

Just behind Oxford Circus is Little Argyll Street. For Oasis, it’s one of the company’s key locations, and for LFW it has worked on a special window scheme in association with Lindsey Braddock, a fashion graduate from Loughborough University. In one window a single mannequin stands

in front of an illustrated graphic backdrop. The figure wears a dress made from hundreds of tonal fabric swatches in berry colours, which fall together like scales on a mermaid. Impactful, yes. Crowd pleaser, yes. Good for the brand, yes, yes, yes. But the showstopper for London Fashion Week? Not quite.

Score 8/10

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