Initially launched as a lifestyle concept store and marketed as one of London’s hidden gems, The Shop at Bluebird has called Chelsea home for the past 12 years. When it closed its West London doors in March there was speculation about whether it could maintain its charm across 15,000 square foot of space in Covent Garden, but step inside the 19th-century Grade II-listed Carriage Hall building and such presumptions will melt away.
Heritage features and exposed brickwork juxtapose the glass roof and wrought-iron staircase beautifully, making this bright and airy space feel less ‘department store’ more ‘place I want to live in immediately’.
As always, the collection feels as though it’s been hand picked especially for you, eschewing over-saturated trends (you won’t find any Gucci loafers here) to make way for lesser-known, but equally beautiful, styles that span price points and aesthetic.
Culture Trip asks what the move to 29 Floral Street means for The Shop at Bluebird.
Culture Trip: Bluebird has been associated with its Chelsea location for the past 12 years – why the move to Covent Garden?
Claire Miles: We initially started thinking about the move two years ago when we knew that the King’s Road lease was coming to an end and, at the time, the thought of leaving that iconic building in Chelsea didn’t feel right… until I walked into 29 Floral Street. I think of it like moving house – we used to be in a cool ground floor apartment and we’ve upsized to a townhouse. I think there’s something exciting happening in Covent Garden at the moment. Chanel and Tom Ford are part of the new beauty market and Petersham Nurseries and The Ivy have recently moved here too, so it feels like we’re adding the fashion aspect into the mix.
CT: You’ve described Bluebird as being London’s best-kept secret. How do you plan to maintain the boutique-y feel of the store across such a large space?
CM: The layout was a key focus. It’s never been the plan to change how we are perceived by the customer, just to reach more people. We didn’t create zones or departments – there’s no shoe section or accessories room and we’ve mixed contemporary and luxury labels in with homewares to keep it feeling natural. The shape of the store lends itself well to this. Everything should feel like one big collection – every brand is as important to us as the next.
CT: What is it about the new store that makes it unique?
CM: Having a boutique this big is pretty unusual. How many great boutiques are there in London these days? There’s a reason for every single item that we stock and every single design feature that we’ve installed. We’ve got our very own art gallery and in September we’re planning to open our top floor restaurant and terrace which is set to take up a third of the space, so we’re creating a place that people can come to and spend anything from an hour to all afternoon in.
CT: When it comes to creating a retail space, do you think the layout and interior design holds more importance than the clothing itself?
CM: Ten years ago I think people shopped because they had to, but now that everything has moved online, taking an afternoon or a day out to physically go shopping has become more of a luxury. You go because you want to and it should be something that’s enjoyable and leisurely. The clothes are the reason we’re here but it’s about offering a service that you won’t get online or in a department store and allowing the customer to spend all afternoon browsing, touching, eating and drinking – a shopping experience should offer escapism and should target all the senses.
CT: For anyone that doesn’t already know the brand, what do you hope their first impressions will be?
CM: This move should open opportunities for a more global audience and I hope that anyone who visits understands what we’re about from the way that we’ve designed it. I want it to be seen as a destination to inspire, where people can feel comfortable asking for style advice. The idea is that people explore. The staff bring a lot of energy to the space. I want it to be like a playground for adults. Let’s not take fashion too seriously.
CT: Is there one particular brand that you think defines Bluebird?
CM: I think of our ‘houses’ as being our core brands. Maison Margiela, Chloé and Marni have forever been a part of the buy and I think they always will be. We stock Dusan exclusively – the designer is Serbian but he’s based in Italy and he creates cashmere and linen designs that are very true to what I see as being the Bluebird aesthetic. Forte Forte (which I’m currently wearing) is also exemplary of what we stand for – it’s effortless dressing at an accessible price point. On the flipside we also stock the likes of Rixo and Ganni, which are what I would call ‘brands of the moment’ but we want to showcase them in a way that proves that anyone can wear them.
CT: Have you added any emerging designers into the mix? Who are you most excited about?
CM: Among this season’s newest additions are Danse Lente and Votary and we’re looking to [set up] some more pop-up stores later in the year to showcase lesser-known designers from around the world.
CT: Has your fashion offering changed in line with the move and if so, how?
CM: The buy and the brands that we stock change every season because I want the offering to feel as new and as exciting as possible. Sometimes I’ll go to a buying appointment with a clear plan of how a collection will work for us but I change my mind when I see it. It has to feel right. I’m sure the buy will evolve depending on who the new customer is that we attract and what it is that they’re looking for but the fluidity of how we currently work will mean that this should feel like a seamless progression.
CT: How do you see Bluebird evolving as a brand and as a store?
CM: I’m so excited for what we’ve achieved so far that it’s hard to tell what’s around the corner. I don’t think there’s any reinvention needed but its more about exposure for us now, and then things will naturally evolve. I think there’s a certain arrogance in sitting still and thinking you’re done and that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do. The world and our culture is ever-changing and you have to roll with it.