At a time when high street footfall is down and online spending is up, retailers are focusing on the customer’s in-store experience. Say hello, then, to The Shop at Bluebird, Covent Garden. The recently opened design emporium in a former Grade II listed carriage hall. Long a tourist hotspot, Covent Garden has been transformed into a beauty quarter over the last few years, with big brands like Chanel, Dior, Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury moving in. But I’m more interested in the calm environment of a grown-up lifestyle store than bright lights, banging music and bronzers.
The building has been beautifully renovated – a gigantic, glass-covered atrium in the middle of the store fills the courtyard with light and makes it feel ‘open air’; while original features such as wooden beams and brickwork give a nod to the hall’s heritage – all the considered work of retail design agency Dalziel & Pow.
And, I don’t know about you, but I do still love to touch, see and try clothes on.
This wonderful space on Floral Street is a gorgeous, grown-up shop and a good move for The Shop at Bluebird. There are plans to lure the Chelsea Set with a top floor restaurant, bar and roof terrace. Plus, fashion, interiors, beauty (including a Blink Bar), lifestyle, art – on the first floor there’s a lovely fashion illustration gallery on the first floor featuring the elegant work of David Downton painterly prints of Gill Button. The fashion offer is largely designer (Valentino, Margiela, McQueen, Chloe and so on) but with popular, mid-range labels like Rixo, Forte Forte and Ganni. The Shop at Bluebird was the brainchild of Belle and John Robinson, the founders of Jigsaw, and so the high street brand’s Covent Garden store has relocated from Long Acre to the ground floor of this building.
Often when I’m in town and in-between meetings, I’ll head to Liberty to mooch around, see what’s new and, if necessary, use the loo (always good to know where to find one when you’re out and about #thatismyage). And, if it’s not too busy, I’ll engage in a spot of much-needed eyebrow-tending at Blink. The Shop at Bluebird is a lovely, new pitstop on the London style circuit.
On a much smaller scale, atelier 75 is a quiet space minutes away from Oxford Circus, in the heart of London’s historic Fitzrovia. In the building, on New Cavendish Street, that was once John Frieda’s salon (he’s moved down the road ), the ground floor has been stripped back to pristine white walls and artisan herringbone parquet giving atelier 75 the modern contemporary feel architects and designers appreciate. It’s probably no coincidence that it’s just behind RIBA; my favourite building that side of town, says style editor Angela Kennedy.
Housing a very personal collection of clothes and accessories, atelier 75 is the work of two successful woman who eschew grandiose fashion glitz for a more pared-back, purist point of view. The women behind it are Linda Bennett (of LK Bennett fame) and her good friend Jo Ogden (who has worked in property.) Both have an appreciation of grown-up, unfettered design – pooling their talents to launch this distinctive, little destination shop.
Their united love of craftsmanship and quality is represented by a collection of clothes from under-the-radar brands like the Sofie D’Hoore, British knitwear designer Marion Foale (I was delighted to see Foale’s charming hand knits in store) and Italian A Punto B for architectural lines. Bennett’s famous kitten heels have been replaced by espadrilles from Spain and Italian Del Carlo platforms, and atelier 75 does feel like the kind of shop you discover on holiday and keep popping back to every evening for a pre-dinner browse.
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The Shop at Bluebird, 29 Floral Street, London WC2E 9DP (020 7351 3873).
atelier 75, 75 New Cavendish Street, London W1 W 6XB (020 7 580 0733).