RETHINKING RETAIL: As Selfridges continues to ponder the meaning of luxury in today’s digital world, it has tapped A.F. Vandevorst to offer its own interpretation.
As part of the retailer’s ongoing “Anatomy of Luxury” project, the Belgian label will be taking over the Corner Shop — a concept space located at the store’s ground floor accessories hall — for a one-week residency. As part of the pop-up, An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx have re-created the scene of their famous spring 1999 show, where models stretched out on midcentury hospital beds before hitting the catwalk.
“Since the beginning, the hospital and the red cross were significant for our identity. When Filip and I met each other at the fashion academy of Antwerp, we discovered that we both collected hospital furniture and based on our common passion we created the A.F. Vandevorst universe,” Vandevorst said. “It was an obvious choice to show a selection of our universe for this project.”
More than 13 hospital beds have been lined up across the corner shop, which features floor-to-ceiling windows and functions more as a gallery than a retail space. Archive pieces from the spring 1999 show are laid out on each bed, while tables filled with flowers and screens streaming the brand’s past shows are also scattered across the space.
As the label celebrates 20 years in the industry, Vandevorst said it was important for them to link with retailers who have always supported its vision.
“Even though we are a small and independent brand, Selfridges understood our urge to tell our story since the beginning and have been offering opportunities to express ourselves through special projects,” she added, pointing to the increasing importance of creating a “unique universe” in physical stores. “Today more and more people shop online, which is great because there is more choice and variety. But the brick-and-mortar stores can always offer something that online cannot. The relationship and chemistry between the store and the physical costumer is a lot more personal and emotionally driven.”
Selfridges has also curated an exhibition, called the Flipside, in a bid to pinpoint what luxury is now and what it will be in the future. As part of the show, the retailer invited the likes of Loewe, Gareth Pugh, Louis Vuitton, Thom Browne and Byredo to create installations that offer their interpretation of the matter.
For Vandevorst, the answer lies in storytelling as much as it does in craft: “Luxury is about high value, preciousness, craftsmanship, creativity. But it doesn’t always have to be materialistic or money driven. Time and freedom are the most dear to us. Throughout the years we felt that it became less about prettiness but more about challenges, pushing boundaries and [telling] a real genuine story.”
Last year, the brand announced plans to wound down their ready-to-wear in order to focus on shoes and accessories as a key pillar of their business, while offering rtw as part of special capsules and collaborations. At Selfridges, they will be introducing a selection of pieces marking their 20th anniversary and a T-shirt capsule created in partnership with stylist and fashion activist B. Åkerlund.
The pop-up will run until May 6.