Selfridges and the Push to Reinvent Retail
The Corner Shop at Selfridges London is exhibition-meets-retail space in the department’s store’s 60,000 sq ft accessories hall that spotlights a revolving selection of artists, designers and tastemakers.
Dominating the windows on the junction between Duke and Oxford Street, the plan is for shoppers to pop into the gallery to purchase related items or merchandise. Now, they can even pay a visit to the store in the metaverse or scoop up an NFT.
Part of Selfridges’ push to reinvent retail, since its launch in 2017, The Corner Shop has hosted collabs with designers such as Gucci, Moncler and Burberry, the first physical Pangaia store, Prada on Ice and Clash de Cartier.
The Corner Shop is currently home to a multi-layered cultural collaboration between the Vasarely Foundation, Paco Rabanne and Selfridges. Running from 13 January - 27 March, Universe explores the work of ground-breaking artist Victor Vasarely, his influence on contemporaries such as Paco Rabanne, and how his work continues to shape their future.
Designed to resemble a studio or catwalk, with myriad spotlights and tiered metal staging, the climate-controlled gallery is a high-impact space featuring beautifully curated displays of art and fashion.
Fifty-five of Vasarely’s artworks are displayed in-store (37 are for sale), with other designs adorning 24 window displays. These include the monochromatic Tilla (1958) and the vibrant Orion MC (1963), plus a selection of prints and exclusive collabs. Don’t forget to look down: even the floor has undergone a hypnotic Vasarely makeover. There’s a neat charity angle too, with proceeds from sales generated used to restore and upkeep works at the Vasarely foundation in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Exhibited alongside the grandfather of Op-Art are further exclusive collaborations and new season and vintage fashions from Paco Rabanne, including the brand’s signature metallic disc dresses (1969). These two icons make for a natural partnership, with Paco Rabanne's current Creative Director, Julien Dossena, referencing Rabanne’s long-time fascination with Op-Art throughout the Spring/Summer 22 collection – think Vasarely’s bold optical illusions printed across garments and co-ords, psychedelic-printed tops, skirts and geometric-print wide-leg trousers.
All of these items are available to buy in the gallery merchandise area of the accessories hall, along with exclusive Vasarely-inspired collectibles, from skateboards with psychedelic decks to geometric-printed cushions and stationary covered in magical, mind-bending designs.
In a UK retail store first, Selfridges is selling NFTs related to the Universe exhibition alongside select physical products. Some 1,800 rare Vasarely paintings and vintage Paco Rabanne designs have been turned into NFTs by London-based NFT platform Substance, which has added a unique spin to the experience. Select Paco Rabanne NFTs will be sold with their physical counterparts, and digital garments can be worn across multiple virtual platforms.
But instead of being sold via a digital auction and paid for with crypto as is the norm, these NFTs retail at a fixed price ranging from £2,000 to more than £100,000 and can be purchased with a credit card from a touchscreen kiosk: Substance automatically creates a digital wallet for each buyer, storing the NFT within it.
Can’t make it in-store? No problem. Selfridges is hosting a twinned experience in the metaverse, building on the success of its Selfridges x Yahoo x Charli Cohen Phygital Metaverse launch last year. Allowing ultra-portability both between digital worlds and the IRL/metaverse divide, designer Charli Cohen collaborated with Selfridges and Yahoo’s immersive storytelling division Yahoo Ryot Lab for Electric/City. In-game hotspots let fans buy physical garments (which they then digitised via an AR body-tracking Snapchat lens), while another store stocked digital-only blockchain-connected pieces, wearable in hundreds of virtual communities.
Merely exchanging a physical good for cash is officially a thing of the past. It’s important for brands to think through how to bridge physical and digital properties to create the next iteration of retail experiences.
In their simplest form, these experiences could involve selling digital counterparts of physical products. Carrying digital items into multiple virtual worlds will soon become possible, and audiences are on the hunt for things that deck out their avatar and show their sense of self in the metaverse.
NFTs let people demonstrate their fandom and allegiance in a virtual world. Think of how you can allow your consumers to ‘own’ a piece of your brand to display proudly online - whether it’s a rare Vasarely or a famous ad campaign.
Smart brands and retailers are plugging into the platforms and mechanics that incentivise collaboration and enable access to exclusive experiences and consumer creation. Consumer-creator supporting concepts and the programmes that promote an insiders’ club mentality via metaverse event attendance are key for retailers looking to maintain an edge.
Physical storefronts no longer just sell physical items. How can you reimagine your space to make room for immersive and innovative displays of both digital and physical items?
When every brand makes a break for the metaverse, it inevitably starts to feel a little PR stunt-y. Like Selfridges’ activations tie back to their overarching mission (‘reinvent retail’) it’s imperative to create a clear link between what you do, and the value it brings to your brand and its audiences.
CSR in 2022 must be core to every business. The evolution of the NFT economy creates opportunities for impact e-commerce, whether it’s through one-off donations from the sale of an NFT or smart contracts that generate revenue when assets are transferred or shared.
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