‘If music be the food of love, play on’, said Shakespeare in Twelfth Night. If religion was the ‘opium of the people’, which Karl Marx spoke of in the 19th century, then shopping was the 20th century passion. But now surely any shopping trip that is ‘experiential’ with ‘added-value’ is the hero of the early 21st century. The word experiential has gained traction mainly as people choose to shop online more and more, hence the need to be given more reasons to get up and go out physically to a store.
This we know, but it also means shoppers want more for their ‘buck’ – whether this be bargains or vintage, eco-friendly to unique: these are the tastes of current shoppers. But more than that shoppers want more of a reason to spend money (without feeling guilty) on items that do more than take up space in their closets, with no real depth to why they are there. To go shopping has become so much more than just buying things. Shopping has to be an emotive, pleasurable experience with a level of engagement never seen before. Let’s face it: no one does it better than Bicester village, with a day out in the countryside that includes shopping, food, culture, and fresh air.
Recently, it hosted the wonderful Chinese fashion designer pop-up store curated by fashion Blogger supreme Susie Lau. Next (and until the 6th of May) comes Maryam Eisler’s Voices: East London pop-up. Based around her book, this wonderful collection is a showcase of the creativity that has been nurtured in East London. The Voices of East London Concept Store is part gallery, part boutique, part installation, part super colour-charged creative hub; it allows shoppers to engage with unique items from shoes to clothes and bags, via artworks, ceramics, and even organic candles.
This wonderful fusion of works in a store supports these artists and designers. Amongst those involved are some well-known names such as jewellery maker Tatty Devine, fashion designer Meihui Liu, celebrity stylist Daniel Lismore, milliner Piers Atkinson, and ceramicist Charlotte Colbert; while lesser known names include Franca Berr for jewellery, Lamar Scarves (silk textiles), McKinley & Paget (organic candle-makers), Michelle Lowe-Holder (jewellery), Natacha Marro (shoes), Natascha Madeiski (ceramics), as well as Sadie Clayton’s wearable art, Silken Favours’ silk textiles, and the work of artist Sue Kreitzman.
The gallery space-cum-shop includes everything from wearable art to home items; so those not wanting to necessarily fill their wardrobes with clothes also have the option of homeware and art. It is a space dedicated to creativity, colour and playfulness – and, ultimately, unique works that are not always readily available. Fifteen artists and designers have work included and prices range from a bargain £5, all the way to £500 for some truly wild and unexpected items. A showcase of unique works is a celebration of the modern day culture of East London, full of life, colour and passion. As artist Sue Kreitzman said: ‘don’t die of living in beige!’; this shop is the antithesis.
But this is not the only commitment to arts, craft and creativity from the group that owns Bicester Village. The group has a collection of malls from Belgium to China, via Ireland and France. Each site has a creative initiative which shows the forward-thinking desire to support and share art in every form. For example, Maasmechalen Village in Belgium hosts a takeover from the surrealist artist Charles Kaisin, and in Wertheim Village (Frankfurt) a secret garden takeover is scheduled. Dublin’s Kildare Village has a sculpture park pop-up, and Suzchou Village in China is being decorated by students from the International Fashion Academy, with a showcase titled ‘Pigs About Town’.
This is ultimately about the community of creativity. Creativity lifts our spirits and restores our soul. Without colour and passion, without people stepping outside of a beige world, our lives are poorer. Any brand committed to creative pursuits is a brand worth engaging with.
There is no shame in loving beautiful things and no one should feel guilty about buying into luxury; after all, it is far more sustainable than fast-fashion high street versions. But it is a delight to see Bicester Village engaging with such diversity to ensure our shopping trip becomes more than just experiential. This is about opening shoppers up to far more – opening up shopping to creative leisure pursuits, where consumers get to engage emotively with art in its purest forms, from the tiny artist’s studio to the BiG Shopping World that is a shopping village.
The Inside the Voices of East London concept store is open until 6 May.
Bicester Village, 50 Pingle Drive, Bicester OX26 6WD, +44 (0)1869 366266