On Netflix: Secrets of Selfridges

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Luxury department stores are a treasure trove – not only for tony bags and shoes, but stories. Recent documentary films have focused on the high net worth shoppers and salespeople at Bergdorf’s (Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) and Neiman-Marcus (The Store). Secrets of Selfridges tells the story of the American visionary behind the infamous UK store and his indelible mark on the world of retail.

Harry Gordon Selfridge Sr., was a Wisconsin native who cut his retail teeth at Chicago’s Marshall Fields. He gained early success by introducing new promotional and customer service concepts. He’s largely credited with the phrases “Only X days until Christmas” and “The customer is always right.”

London Calling

In just eight years Selfridge worked up to general manager, then quickly set his sights on taking the department store model to Britain. The iconic Oxford Street store is an architectural diamond, and his American approach to retail singlehandedly changed London culture.

Never before had different classes of British citizens been welcome in one commercial place as equals. For the first time women were encouraged to shop – without escort! – for pleasure. He embraced the women’s suffragette movement early on, gaining him a loyal following. Shoppers could freely peruse and browse merchandise under the guise of “just looking” instead of being expected to buy. No pushy salespeople here, just lots of merchandise.

Excite the mind and the hand will reach for the pocket.

Selfridge believed retail should excite and delight. His promotional tactics were incredibly successful at driving foot traffic. After Louis Blériot completed the first cross-Channel flight, Selfridge arranged to exhibit his monoplane on Selfridges’s first floor, drawing huge crowds.

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His lasting contributions to retail are seemingly endless. Bi-annual sales? Credit Selfridge. Bargain basement? Selfridge. Cosmetics and perfume counters on the ground floor? Selfridge! H. Gordon Selfridge’s rise and (spoiler alert!) fall is a fascinating tale of a retail pioneer and an American outsider who becomes the king of London luxury.

On Netflix Canada now.

Ready for Ready-to-Wear

photo by Peter Lytwyniuk
The Superbowl may be over, but as far as I’m concerned the real games are just beginning. It’s the start of Ready-to-Wear season when designers will be fiercely competing on runways around the world for international attention and investment. Of course, runway shows are a different kind of spectator sport than football or hockey.  Let’s be honest, they’re usually viewed while the boss is out to lunch or late at night, just you and your laptop. But in the vein of “more is better” I encourage you to do your hair, don a great pair of shoes and pour yourself a glass of bubbly while indulging in a live stream (where available) or a photo slideshow.
February 7 – 10, Montreal
Montreal’s calendar includes many of the usual suspects – Barila, Bodybag by Jude, Nadya Toto – plus a peak at Rudsak’s new label RUD. Denis Gagnon, along with Marie Saint Pierre, tops this list of must-see shows. As well, the young Montreal-raised, London-based Thomas Tait will debut with Christian l’Enfant Roi and Samule Mercure in a group show presented by Trusst. Live streaming available.
Montreal Fashion Week
 
February 10 – 17, New York
Plenty to heart about New York’s calendar. The pro set of Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Betsy Johnson ground the week. Mix in the glamour of Badgley Mischka, hipster chic of Charlotte Ronson and celebrity shows like L.A.M.B and you have something uniquely New York. Live streaming available for some shows.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

February 13 – 15, London
With an eye on emerging talent and international designers (including Mackage) Scoop appears to be modeled after New York’s Coterie or Copenhagen’s Gallery.  This new show is based at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Check back for live streaming details.
Scoop International Fashion Show 
February 18 – 23, London
London jam packs their week with designer shows…too many to count. Some highlights will no doubt include Christopher Kane, Erdem, Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood Red Label and Mark Fast. Check back for live streaming details.
London Fashion Week

February 23 – March 1, Milan
Gucci, Pucci, Prada and Jil Sander are just the tip of the Milano iceberg. For insider reports from the Milan shows, follow Flare Magazine’s @LisaTant on Twitter. Check back for live streaming details.
Milan Fashion Week
 
March 1 – 9, Paris
There is no other city who can compete with Paris on fashion: Dior, Balmain, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Comme des Garcons, YSL, Jean Paul Gaultier, Galliano, McQueen and of course Chanel. (In case you missed it, check out Jeanne Beker’s interview with Jean Paul Gaultier in the Globe and Mail here.) Check back for live streaming details.
Paris Fashion Week (Mode à Paris)
And let’s not forget our Canadian shows. Check back for designers and live streaming information. More to come!
 
March 24 – 31, Edmonton
March 28 – April 1, Toronto
LG Fashion Week
April 12 – 15, Vancouver