It’s strange, I know, for a former personal shopper to not love high-street store shopping but I don’t. All the queuing, the 6 item limit at the changing room, crowds of people all clammering after the same item; it’s all just so uncivilised and I’m a laaaaady don’t you know. So – despite being invited to a preview and it being open for eighteen months already, I have avoided visiting London’s newest mega-mall (are we really calling them malls now?) Westfield. My friend Claire who probably thinks I’m the last person in London to go, took me there yesterday. The visit was a revelation and has changed the way I feel about this kind of shopping.
As I entered I was struck by the beauty of the architecture; the Knippers Helbig-designed iconic roof is an incredible feat of engineering and its undulating diamond panes shower Europe’s largest urban centre in light. With enough space to fit in thirty football pitches there is none of the crowding of Oxford Street making it a much more enjoyable and relaxed experience. The soft edges and curves make it very calm and the trendy leather husband/boyfriend seated waiting areas are a genius idea.
As many Londoners will already know, there are over 270 stores including forty sumptuous designer shops in The Village as you enter including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and Christian Dior.
As well as being able to buy original art at Lavanta Gallery, many of the stores have art displayed in their windows. A giant shoe installation made up of tiny paper shoes frames the entrance to Aldo, and Topshop has collaborated with Japanese artist Houxo Que for their neon colour injected window display.
It’s exciting to learn that Westfield’s next venture: an even larger sister centre near the Olympic site in Stratford will have a permanent art gallery – the first in a British shopping centre. With Tracey Emin acting as one of the advisors on the project it promises to be very interesting indeed. The new site will have a more eclectic, East London feel with 10% of space being reserved for independent edgey retailers which should give the centre a hint of Spittalfields, Shoreditch and Hoxton’s appeal. Can’t wait for it to open! I loved Westfield so much I’m going back today to try out one of the fourty restaurants and pick up textile designer, Vanessa Harrington’s Book Of Charms from Oasis. With twelve stirling silver charms including a dancing flamingo and tea-cup and saucer, there’ll be a different one to put on the necklace for each month of the year. Charming!
© Sabina Lucia 2010