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VM Choice: Menswear props at John Lewis

A very appealing, understated display is adorning the shelves of the John Lewis Oxford Street menswear section at present. A varied collection of faux-papier mache covered forms, based loosely on the distinctive architecture of London, provides a great base on which to display small accessories. The muted faux- real newspaper would transfer ink to the merchandise - gives a complex but topical touch to the new accessories: new merchandise is always news.

A stylized dome, just very slightly reminiscent of St. Paul’s Cathedral and surmounted by a cross, provides a perfect base for a glossy old-gold tie. The display is styled so the blade of the tie falls below the cross and over the rectangular base, the uniform spots of the tie contrasting with the random appearance of the newsprint.

The tower to the left of this image is a cross between The Elizabeth Tower, home to Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament, and Cleopatra’s needle. Unfortunately its vertical-sided shape doesn’t really lend itself to becoming a prop for accessories display. It would be too easy for accessories to slip down its smooth sides, which would not be a good look. However, it looks well alongside the other items. In the centre is a simplified ‘Gherkin,’ its distinctive curvy silhouette making it an easy shape to dress with a stripy, slightly schoolboy tie. To the right is a metal shoe stand with a men’s hybrid Oxford shoe with broguing, much worn at present as a little-less-formal-than-formal, but a little-less-country than an actual pair of brogues.

The props look great displayed densely, high on a glass shelf above the men’s suits: a rectangular cube, adjacent to ‘Big Ben,’ with a plain rectangle at the front, flanks ‘St. Pauls’ in the centre, with an interesting hybrid item to the right. We might describe this as a rectangular plinth with a pocket. Certainly, the pocket is perfect for displaying a blue silk satin pocket square. This is adjacent to an undecorated gherkin.

Of the six props in this image, only three of are showcasing merchandise, but contrary to regular, and rather dull in-store fixtures, these do not look ‘naked’ without products. In fact the props link the rather disparate merchandise well: the brogued tan Oxford shoe sits reasonably with the ‘wedding’ plain silk satin tie and matching pocket square. Conventional in-store props really don’t over this possibility.

Flexibly, these props also so look well and not in the least ‘bitty’ when spaced out above the shirt wall fixture. Interspersed with brand logos, a ‘St Pauls’ with tie, a ‘Big Ben,’ a ‘Gherkin,’ and a ‘pocket tower’ work well when displayed in a compact space. Again, imagine doing this with conventional props, and applaud the thought that has gone in to creating these.

This is a super-flexible prop: not only do we all read newspapers, but we do so in a variety of settings: the tube, the coffee shop, or the office. Therefore these props allow for use showcasing both formal and casual wear accessories, or even just filling the space on the top of a shelf.