Last Monday I took a different bus from Victoria station and got off outside the corner of Selfridges. I went to dive down the side street to avoid the tourists and get a move on to my meeting. I always love a good window display but if I’m honest they rarely actually pull me immediately into the store. But last Monday was different…
There were some extraordinary pieces in the window; theatrical, operatic and not at all what I expected to see in Selfridges. It felt like a snippet of something from the V&A; more like a fashion and art exhibition I tried to walk on, but couldn’t. I had to go in…
So, I then discovered that since January, and since their Accessories Hall refurb, Selfridges have launched a campaign called Radical Luxury which will run until June and as part of the campaign they have created The Anatomy of Luxury at their Corner Shop, ( on the corner of Duke St and Oxford St ), which showcases a new brand, exclusive items and unusual collaborations each week. It feels incredibly contemporary, very free and excitingly transient. It was Gareth Pugh’s designs which drew me into the store and which then reignited my long standing interest in the combination of fashion, art and design.
Later that day, and by complete coincidence, I received an email asking if I wanted to have a preview of ‘The Flipside’ installation exhibition which is part of the Radical Luxury campaign and at the Old Selfridges Hotel in Orchard St. Excited by my new discovery of Gareth Pugh, and as he was one of the designers who had created a piece for it, I obviously said yes!
The Flipside is a multi sensory exhibition curated by Selfridges with the concept that it is the ‘alter-ego’ of the Accessories Hall. It has elements within it which reflect the design within the Accessories Hall like the semi circular Fount Bar and the orb lighting, but it stands as its absolute opposite; the entrance itself a rotating door, designed especially for the exhibition, and inspired by a flipping coin.It’s full of shadows, shifting light and an esoteric soundscape, focusing on the thought that time itself is the ultimate luxury. It invites you to forget time and be transported into a distorted, different concept of it which enables you to connect to your senses and actually feel the experience.
Seven different brands have created installations for the exhibition, and the fundamental connection between art, design and the world of fashion is evident throughout. It’s not just about selling bags and dresses, this is about witnessing the creativity and conceptualism of cutting edge designers. The issue I often have with fashion is that I can’t afford the pieces I want and then that makes me feel a bit cut off from engaging with it all. But going to this exhibition made me rethink…I don’t decide to go to a new art exhibition just to look for a piece of art to buy; I go because it’s inspiring and fires me up creatively. If, at some point I can save up for something really special; a ‘work of art’ I will; that is a goal…and that’s how I want to address fashion, because for me it’s the more extraordinary, exclusive and artistic pieces which I love. I don’t just want to own a nice dress or bag, I want to own a treasure and be inspired by just looking. Seeing how other artists think is a constant reminder that we don’t have to all be like sheep and that thinking outside of the box is not only exciting, it is completely invigorating.
The questions which anchor The Flipside exhibition are ‘What is your idea of luxury?’, ‘What does Radical Luxury mean to you?’ and ‘How do you define luxury’. These are questions and concepts which the designers and brands have worked with whilst also considering the future of luxury.
The brands involved are: Google Pixel 2, Byredo, Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Thom Browne, Mr Lyan, Gareth Pugh and Selfridges. When I had the preview, not everything was set up, so I didn’t get a proper look at the Byredo and Google pieces and which I hope to go back for.
Google Pixel 2 who will lend you one of their phones to take pictures as you go round as they are excellent for low level lighting shots apparently ( the shots here btw are shot on an iphone 7 which isn’t brilliant for the dark! ) and you can create ‘Your Luxury Portrait’ by selecting your definition of luxury.
Loewe who have worked with the concepts of tradition combined with limitless future and intelligent design to protect the Earth’s resources for their ’The Future is Green’ piece and which for me was also reminiscent of my late father’s obsession with technology in in th 70’s and 80’s but which then seemed to overtake his understanding of it as he grew older.
Mr Lyan has conceived a wonderful sensory experience in ’The Libationary’ which allows you assimilate various questions, tastes and smells to determine your ideal personal cocktail.
Thom Browne presents a surreal, and almost sci fi, theatrical piece ‘Dreamscape’ which is like an old fashioned music box.
Gareth Pugh has created a video installation ‘Void’, which has an extra sensory experience as you enter. I love that his luxuries are escape, freedom and clarity and that entering his void really connects you to that.
Louis Vuitton have created ‘Radical Journey’ where they look at travel of the future where luxury is expressed as an experience.
Selfridges have created really thought provoking, yet gentle shadow and light displays which then come together in ‘The Shadow Dial’ where you become its middle point, allowing light and shadow to rotate around you. It creates your personal shadow journey and actively slows you down so you feel like you are becoming part of time itself.
I loved this exhibition because of its exploration of The Flipside; the darker underneaths of the instantly attractive. It also felt like Selfridges had a refreshing sense of self awareness. It’s a crucial contemplation at the moment because now more than ever,as people rush around to capture all the pretty; grabbing the ’cream’ or the easy ‘cherry on top’, means that any thought about time, where things are coming from, where things are going to and our position in all of that can get massively overlooked or lost, whereas it should be fundamentally embraced.
The Flipside is a site specific installation which I highly recommend to anyone who wants a London experience which is out of the ordinary and which transports you to another dimension.
It’s also a FREE exhibition, although you will have to BOOK ( which you can do HERE ) as there are timed slots. It runs until May 11th and is open Tuesday – Friday: 12pm – 8pm, Saturday: 10am – 8pm and Sunday: 12pm – 6pm.