It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas: five seasonal shopfronts to get you feeling festive
Forget New York, London is where the real fairytale can be found, courtesy of its sensationally decorated window displays. And who better to pick their favourites than the authors of ‘London Shopfronts’?
Started your Christmas shopping yet? Don’t worry – us neither. We have, however, done lots of window shopping, thanks to the plethora of prettily designed displays bringing cheer up and down the country. And while of course there are plenty of admirable arrangements to be found outside the capital, we couldn’t help but ask Emma J. Page and Rachael Smith, experts that they are as authors of London Shopfronts, to compile a list of their favourite fenestrated scenes.
The pair’s book, which was published by Hoxton Mini Press in September this year, not only scopes out the city’s most striking shops – many of them the very definition of Instagrammable – but offers a photographic survey of historic signage, while deftly making a case for the importance of retail independence and traditional craft techniques. It’s a charming portrait in glass and gilding of some of the personalities behind these high-street institutions – some more eccentric than others – and the enduring creativity of Londoners.
While the photographs in London Shopfronts are somewhat evergreen, taken during less festive times of year, it’s in December that these charming outfits come into their own, decked up in tinsel and glitter (as we all should be, of course). And so, without further ado, we present Emma and Rachael’s top spots, which will make traipsing round town a treat in itself. Wallets not necessary.
Fortnum & Mason
“Known for its playful, trad-with-a-twist window displays, Fortnum’s – one of London’s most upmarket department stores – always goes all out at this time of year, with memorable 3D displays that often highlight the work of makers, British specialists and of course its famed own-brand products, from puddings to pies. It always feels so celebratory.”
What to look for: the windows on the upper floors of the famous façade, turned into those of an advent calendar, marking the countdown to Christmas. Better than chocolate.
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1
Paul Rothe & Son
“A perfect more-is-more window display for foodies looking for festive inspiration. Paul Rothe & Son – whose sandwiches and soups are a must on any trip to Marylebone – is a specialist deli in the countryside cast, slap bang in the middle of the city. Stacks of jam and brilliant stocking fillers – cheese, chilli relish, chutney – jostle for space in this charmingly wonky 18th-century building, once reportedly lodged in by Charles Dickens’ father.”
What to look for: the festive foliage arrangements – a look we’ll likely be borrowing for our own party table decorations, interweaving them with the pots of cranberry sauce we will no doubt have treated ourselves to.
Paul Rothe & Son, 35 Marylebone Lane, London W1
“Cartier brings the ultimate in high-end, upscale luxury festive décor, as glitteringly glamorous as its wares. This store doesn’t just do windows, instead tending to go large across the whole building – usually in bold tones, whether dotted with glimmering golden baubles or the brand’s signature panther motif.”
What to look for: this year, Cartier has it wrapped, having bundled up its Mayfair flagship with a giant red bow – a reminder, writ large, that the best things come in small packages. Especially when they’re sparkly.
Cartier, 175-177 New Bond Street, London W1
Selfridges & Co
“Another of the city’s definitive department stores, Selfridges knows how to do windows – and not just in December. This year’s theme, Christmas of Dreams, presents a fantastical enchanted world, taking the Golden Age of Hollywood as its starting point. Think retro glamour and an ‘anything is possible’ approach across its 29 windows.”
What to look for: allusions to the good and the great from Tinseltown, from Busby Berkeley to 1950s Technicolor musicals.
Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1
“Perhaps the classiest stationers in town, the Covent Garden-based Choosing Keeping have this year created a super-classic display taking inspiration from the papeteries of Paris. Expect a sumptuous display of marbled papers, cards, notebooks, gifts and pens, as well as presents wrapped in exquisite printed papers, all enticingly displayed.”
What to look for: find your favourites among the cascading collection of vintage-looking baubles. Winged angels (and bats), a glittery guinea pig, a cauliflower and a hard-boiled egg get our vote.
Choosing Keeping, 21 Tower St, London WC2
Do you dream of decorating your own stellar shopfront? Brushfield Street in east London’s Spitalifields, which is currently on the market with us, features a ground-floor shop with a charming Victorian frontage as part of the listing. Meanwhile, St Aldates, another of our current listings, offers a similar opportunity, this time in the middle of Oxford. Think of the fun you could have.
London Shopfronts, by Emma J. Page and Rachael Smith, is published by Hoxton Mini Press
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