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VM Basics: Store exteriors part 2

Some fun outside VM ideas have enlivened our streets recently. These include the conventional decoration of the outside of the building as at Au Printemps, but notice how sparkly white lights are festooned under the canopy and neatly wrapped around the trees, too. High street stores have a wonderful advantage over those in malls in that they can take advantage of both the external walls and roofs of their buildings. They can build their brand through VM by surprising, delighting, and entertaining their customers.

At Galleries Lafayette’s Maison store in Paris, the Christmas lighting was deliberately designed to showcase the architectural detail of the store exterior, with concealed red tubes adding warmth to the underside of the first-floor balcony and the top of the ground floor window arches. The classic look this conveys is nicely contradicted by the store name in a sharp, san-serif, white neon font, conveying a contemporary feel which accurately encompasses the stores’ merchandise offer: a mix of classic and contemporary.

Since Thomas Heatherwick created an angular meandering snake, which apparently wandered laterally inside and outside Harvey Nichols’ windows some years ago, we have seen the idea of exterior decoration evolve and change scale.

Employing the same concept, but in flowers, the society florist By Appointment Only Design in London’s Chiltern Street displays a lovely, almost bubbly, diagonal swathe of flowers across its window. There is a pleasingly simple contrast between the white flowers and the black-painted fascia here.

For Christmas 2014 the exterior of Club Monaco’s Sloane Square store was totally surrounded by fir trees, installed by London florist That Flower Shop. It slightly resembled one of the pop-up sites that sell Christmas trees around our towns and cities, and it was impressive that opportunistic local residents didn’t wander off with the odd tree. Perhaps the large and heavy containers deterred them. The shaggy, fir-branch arch through which customers entered the store was a particularly nice touch, conveying the impression of a giant Christmas wreath. We all enjoy the child-like experience of walking through archways, be they pergolas of roses, wisteria, lych-gates, pleached limes or moon gates.

Back to Paris where the traiteur and patissier Gerald Mulot frequently uses the exterior awning of its Left Bank corner store as a base for decoration. This image, taken one Christmas some years ago, shows a candy cane theme with Christmas crackers in metallic pinks, a stylised wicker tree and dip-dyed branches sprinkled with fairy lights, resembling oversized tinsel. The sides of the open-backed windows have been colour-matched to the palette of the awning decoration.

VV Rouleaux’s Christmas window left the windows almost as they were, bar the installation of Christmas wreaths, and transformed the exterior of the store instead, wrapping it in cozy, fleecy, cotton-bolls, including the top part of the door. Giant pompoms of fluff were hung above the windows and piled on either side of the entrance. Importantly, the store name and the merchandise category, ribbons, were picked out in black across the hidden fascia. Very fluffy, cozy, and eye-catching.

A slightly more conservative version of smothering the store exterior must be shrouding the exterior in flowers, as Kings Road stores do each year to celebrate the nearby Chelsea Flower show. Fine art and furniture dealer Partridge, located on London’s Bond Street, also celebrates the Chelsea Flower Show, presumably because it has an established synergy with its customer base.

And it is impossible to consider the decoration of store exteriors without including Carlotta Jacoby’s wonderful installation of the Rick Owens Salome sculpture at Selfridges for F/W 14. Complete with a flaming torch it was a brilliant use of the space.