The latest pop-up phenomenon to take on London’s retail scene is ‘Multiplex’. 20,000 square foot of the Old Selfridges Hotel has been converted into a temporary department store (previously it housed a Skatepark). Brought together by Tom Dixon, the collection houses more than 30 international brands and designers.
Entering the Multiplex you are met by a somewhat predictable take on a ‘future’ space. There’s an abundance of metallic sheeting adorning walls and stairs, apparently inspired by the international space station (get the app if you’ve never seen it pass over, it’s amazing).
Although metallic overtones and shiny surfaces are not rocket science, they do serve to create a vast contrast between the rainy, grey street outside and the promise of what’s to come from inside… introducing intrigue and excitement to the retail space.
Indeed as a visitor, I found myself forgetting I was in a retail space and began to engage with the people and products as if I was in more of a designer’s workspace or lab. The encouragement to test, to ask, to touch is abundant, and as a result, I found I had a far deeper interaction with the brands on display. The way the space had been curated encourages self-discovery. I must admit that, at times, I felt slightly inhibited by the layout, but there are no boundaries, so I carried on and was often surprised and delighted by what I found.
As a consumer in a department store of today, I find myself treated purely as a shopper, given information to help me seek what I want and most importantly to spend my money. The Multiplex department store is less about the sell and more about the browser, the introduction, the stop and stare, the ability to touch and try, the customer experience. I frequently find that with my online profile being continually refined to what others think I might like, my range and choice is actually being limited. I like black clothes, but this does not mean I only wear black and only want to be presented with black options, which is the danger of data manipulation and online personalisation. In this new take on a shopping environment, I was given license to allow serendipity to happen, to chance upon things, to explore beyond my normal comfort zone, and I liked it.
Tom Dixon may not have given us a formula for what the department store of the future is, but he’s at least begun to imagine what it could be. And Selfridges have yet again excelled in their ability to undertake something risky, different, unknown and provide a space combining art, theatre, exhibition and most importantly discovery. We’ve had the Skatepark and the Multiplex, I look forward to whatever’s next?