London: The Retail Melting Pot

Are you a Harrod’s lover or a Selfridge’s fan? These iconic department stores are as different as they are alike: cool art exhibitions, majestic food halls and an impressive selection of fashion items are just few of the many wonders you will find inside. Still, the two stores have very distinctive brand identities: while Harrods is clearly focused on the luxury segment, placing a lot of attention in creating dedicated spaces for the participants of their selective and aspirational VIP program (such as the penthouse for exclusive private shopping sessions), Selfridges prides itself in being able to delight the full spectrum of consumers, hosting streetstyle in-shop pop-up as well as creating experiences of ‘theatrical retailing’ (as Mr. Selfridge used to call them).

From brick-and-mortal retailing to a champion of the e-commerce: the YNAP headquarters (ironically inside a Mall!) is decorated with minimal design and elegant furniture. Inside the office, though, a vibrant energy permeates the building: from the studios where product shootings happen all day long to the busy meeting rooms where executives are constantly questioning how to remain ahead of the competition.

Remaining in the luxury playing field, but this time dealing with beauty, we visited the majestic townhouse of Jo Malone: a physical representation of the most distinguishing traits of the brand itself. The high-quality materials, the distinctive scents which permeate the house and a sense of elegance and understatement are what this niche luxury brand is all about: with the promise of staying true to itself and its founder’s values, now and forever.

Not only large and established companies are thriving in London; the British capital is considered the Silicon Valley of Europe for the impressive number of startups which it hosts.

Bloom and Wild is the second fastest growing startup in the UK (right after Deliveroo) and one of the few companies who are trying to innovate a very traditional industry: flower gifting.

Bloom and Wild’s aim is to put the emotional value of sending flowers at the center, making sure the gift arrive in the hands of the receiver as beautiful as it has been conceived. The brown box the flowers come in fits in a mailbox, and not only contains a beautiful selection of flowers, but also simple instructions on how to style them. The best thing is that you cannot get it wrong: the flower selection is done is such a way that it will look good even if you follow your creative lead.

More seasoned, but still with a steady growth trajectory is Depop, where we had the privilege of interacting with the CEO herself. This startup focused on vintage clothing is becoming the point of reference for the growing industry in secondary market: an industry which is getting more and traction thanks to the focus on sustainability and waste management that has become prevalent in the last few years.

To conclude our trip, we wanted to understand how breakthroughs in fashion technologies are created. Holition is a young startup which has already achieved a lot: by applying AR to the creation of smart mirrors for Charlotte Tilbury, holographic fashion shows for Dunhill, virtual try on for Uniqlo and smart windows for Hermès, the company is constantly creating innovative solutions keeping the needs of its clients at heart. That is why it prides itself in being ‘a non-tech tech company’ or better, a technological company with a human touch.

And after our last dinner eating tapas in South Kensington, our Paris & London Chazen trip came to an end.

One week, two cities, 13 company visits, more than 25 hours of talks, presentations and Q&A sessions with executives and the management team: and still, we are ready to do it all over again.

~ Alice Signori ’18

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Harrods
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Harrods Food Hall
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Selfridges in-store popup
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Group picture at YNAP
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Group picture at YNAP
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YNAP HQ in Westfield
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Jo Malone Townhouse
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Bloom and Wild – an example of its iconic boxes
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Bloom and Wild
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Depop
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Holition

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