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Harvey Nichols redefine luxury with the help of Virgile+Partners

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Harvey Nichols unveiled the new look of its stores across the globe this week with a new outlet in Birmingham designed by Virgile+Partners. The consultancy has worked on the design of the store for six months, looking to redefine luxury with a boutique feel and seamlessly bring together the worlds of style and technology. The design utilises several interactive digital experiences, but still manages to emphasis customer service. It sets the tone for the seven-floor flagship store in Knightsbridge London, which is expected to open in around nine months and is also being designed by Virgile+Partners.

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According to Virgile+Partners director Carlos Virgile, whilst the Birmingham design will form a basis for other stores, designs will also be tailored to suit each location. He said: “We have set out a design style and will continue to go forward with that. We’re currently working on a Harvey Nichols store in Dubai. This is the first step. How long they will all take we don’t know.” For the Birmingham store he said: “There was no time to prototype anything and although it’s been an enjoyable process that was very challenging.”

Harvey Nichols unveiled the new look of its stores across the globe this week with a new outlet in Birmingham designed by Virgile+Partners

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The Birmingham store is located inside the Mailbox development located just outside of the city centre, and opens this Friday (July 31). Instead of a traditional shop window, consumers will notice a large outdoor screen showing seasonal and curated content. They will enter the store via a 12 metre, LED light laden tunnel, at the end of which, Harvey Nichols concierge staff will operate a cloak-room, valet parking and other services. An oversized baroque-style chandelier delineates the Concierge desk and several lecterns displaying the Harvey Nichols website. Another impressive feature of the store is the fitting rooms, which provide customers with a 360° interactive mirror, which films the customer looking at it on a short delay, meaning that they can easily see the back of the clothes they're trying on without having to awkwardly ask a friend.

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Elsewhere there is a juxtaposition of cheaper and more traditionally luxurious materials such as a textured brick and timber wall, plywood boxes, terrazzo plinths, exposed insulation material and the extensive use of bronze and marble. There are no branded concessions and no walkway for customers to follow, which lends the store a less conventional and more unique atmosphere. Towards the back of the store curved walls give way to beauty and hair treatment areas over a split mezzanine level. A restaurant, cocktail bar, tapas bar and open kitchen can also be accessed separately out of store hours. They have a luxury feel and combine grey and green with copper and wood.

According to Virgile+Partners director Carlos Virgile, whilst the Birmingham design will form a basis for other stores, designs will also be tailored to suit each location

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Virgile says that across the store the consultancy has purposely tried to stray from “Typically luxurious materials.” He said: “If you look up you can see the ceiling is made from polycarbonate panels – a very cheap material to touch but has this fantastic shimmer and adds glamour to the environment. It was about bringing back the important values of the Harvey Nichols brand which is about being witty and fun; bringing them to the surface in the context of something new.” Consultancy partner Ewald Damen added: “We’ve worked with suppliers to make really simple materials become really beautiful.”

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