By the standards of many along London’s Regent Street, Anthropologie presented a subdued face to the world when it made its European debut last fall. The storefront features a large plate-glass window with dark metal surround and the cream letters of the Anthropologie logo standing out from this. But while the facade does not shout out, the opening window display – composed of 12,000 used teabags attached to thin cotton strings and suspended from the ceiling – certainly made an impression. The bags were arranged to create a snow globe effect floating in the window.
To those familiar with the brand, this is signature Anthropologie style. For its new European audience, however, the display offered little hint of the kind of merchandise inside, but it was still arresting enough to pull them through the door. And once inside, the vista is impressive. Arranged over three floors with a total selling area of 10,000 square feet, the store greets shoppers with a “decompression zone,” as European chief executive James Bidwell refers to it, within the first 50 feet. In the middle of this area, most of the women’s clothing and accessories are displayed on tables, with pride of place going to a female tailor’s form dressed in a cardigan and sporting a skirt composed of broken willow-pattern porcelain pieces wired together. Around the walls, white porcelain tea and coffee pots are clad with loosely crocheted white covers. The introductory message: This store is all about visual detail.
Passing through a square arch, the shopper emerges into the store’s main body featuring an imposing 50-ton steel open-sided staircase. The staircase allows unobstructed views to the upper and lower floors, but the real star is the wall behind it, which is covered from top to bottom with living green plants. The idea of a vertical garden has been tried in various locations around the world, with Anthropologie installing one on the exterior of its store in Huntsville, Ala. Putting this kind of feature inside a store, however, is a first for the retailer and also the first of its kind in Europe. While maintenance could be a problem, Bidwell points out that the wall features a series of panels, each of which can be removed and replaced if plants die.
The other major feature of the ground floor is the massive wall painting opposite the staircase. Originally a stage set in a theater in Barcelona, it presents the image of a haunted tree, the branches of which have been extended by painting the wall next to it.
The visual highlights continue on the other floors, as well. Downstairs, where you’ll find cookware, tableware and more women’s fashion, a pillar appears to be covered in white, algae-like blooms. But on closer inspection, the blooms are in fact white garbage bags that have been scrunched up to create the desired effect.
According to Bidwell, the London store was the second most successful opening for the retailer in its history – testimony to the care and craft that have gone into creating this interior. A second store is currently under construction on London’s fashionable Kings Road and more are set to follow across Europe later this year.
Anthropologie has arrived in the U.K. capital with the kind of fanfare normally reserved for members of British royalty. Shoppers are responding to its call.