"Ladies, how many of you are wearing high heels today?" asks Desirée Bollier, chair and chief executive of Value Retail — the company responsible for developing and operating the world's leading luxury outlet shopping villages. "Because, as I'm told, the newly expanded Bicester Village is now the length of the Champs-Élysées!"
Luckily for me, I'm not wearing heels. Having had the privilege of visiting Value Retail's La Roca Village in Barcelona and Las Rozas Village in Madrid last year — and, as a result, aware of the bargains to be had — I was ready to hit the ground running. Map out, I had a plan: First up, Balenciaga; then the double storey Prada (yes, two floors of Prada!); followed by Gucci; before hitting up Céline. None of this fluffing about and wandering door-to-door. With Bicester Village introducing 30 new stores to its already large line-up of 130 boutiques, I needed a strategy if I wanted to get my hands on the good stuff; especially since Value Retail had assembled the who's who of fashion media to report on the new expansion — from Lisa Armstrong at the Daily Telegraph to Caroline Issa at Tank Magazine.
How did I fair? Walked away with some killer white shades from Prada (runway collection and literally the last pair), and this to-die-for belted navy coat from Céline (lined with Mulberry silk that's just heaven on the skin). The best part? All at 60% off the recommended retail price. #Yasss
This season also sees the introducion of The British Collective — a Christmas pop-up boutique retailing homegrown talent — designed by illustrator and interior designer, Luke Edward Hall. Dressed smartly in a double-breasted coduroy suit from Camoshita, worn over a baby-blue cotton poplin shirt with a ruffled collar from Gucci, I sat down with the celebrated British designer at NUMBER 50 — a new deluxe private space for VIP customers — to talk about his courageous use of colour (in both his work and personal style), his list of recommended stores to hit up at Bicester Village (for the fashion-conscious shopper), and importantly, what he wants for Christmas (you might be surprised by his answer).
Click on "Listen in browser" in the SoundCloud file below to hear Luke Edward Hall introduce The British Collective.
Your work as an artist and designer is characterised by the courageous use of colour and colour combinations. What advice would you give to people who are either afraid, or don't know, how to wear colour? It's all about experimenting really. You don't have to go out wearing full colour. Experiment with a sock or a pocket square and see what works. You can use bits of colour...
Use colour as an accent. Exactly. I think people should just be braver with colour. It's surprising how many people just don't wear it at all.
Totally. I grew up in Melbourne where everyone always wears black. When I moved to Singapore — and generally people in Asia love colour — I found it really hard to get into wearing colour. But you really have to just give it a go. Have you always loved using colour in your work and in your personal style? Yes, definitely. I studied fashion before I moved into interiors. The menswear that I designed was always also very colourful and, I don't know, it just feels very natural for me. I don't have any black clothes.
Really? Okay, I have one black jumper but that's it.
Do particular colours have a special meaning to you? Not necessarily, but green is probably my favourite colour. It reminds me of the country side and it brings the outdoors inside when you use it for interiors.
We're here at Bicester Village to celebrate its expansion to 160 stores. What was the most challenging part of the brief from Bicester Village for designing their Christmas pop-up, The British Collective? Well, the great thing about this project was that there was no real brief. They kind of gave me amazing free range to do what I wanted with the Christmas pop-up boutique. As a designer, that's great. I was just able to come up with a my dream idea.
Tell us about the space — what do you want shoppers to feel when they walk into The British Collective? As you know, I love colour and I love prints. I think colour can really have an impact on people, and bright colours make you feel optimistic; it makes you happy. I want people to walk in and see something unexpected, to feel something magical. It's Christmas as well, and if you can't use colour for Christmas, then when can you use it?
You mention the word "magical" and I think that's very apt. In terms of all the other boutiques I've visited at Bicester Village today, The British Collective really hits you when you enter. It does feel a bit magical. The other stores is what you'd expect from a Saint Laurent or Acne Studios. Thanks, that's good to hear.
"I don't think there is a thing as 'good taste' or 'bad taste'. It's all personal. And for me, it's all about dressing a space with personality."
On that note then, what do you think makes 'good interior design'? That's a hard one. With design, even if it's not my aesthetic, I can appreciate it. You mention Acne Studios. I think it looks great — it's not my style — but I think their stores are designed well.
That clean and graphic aesthetic. Yup. I don't think there is a thing as 'good taste' or 'bad taste'. It's all personal. And for me, it's all about dressing a space with personality. I love interiors that tell a story and use multiple colours and textures. I think interiors reflect your personality, so the more layers there are, the more interesting it is for me.
Do you think that approach came from your menswear background? Because there is a lot of layers in menswear. Yeah, I think you're right. When I did menswear I did a lot of knitwear and designed my own tweed from Scotland, and yes, it was a lot about different layers and textures. That's what I like to do in the store: A mish-mash of textures as well as colours. At the Christmas pop-up, you've got that wool carpet, but the walls are lacquered red and then you have these white columns. With the furniture we have a red metal coffee table — which is quite a hard element — but it contrasts well with the carpet.
With the millennial male shopper in mind, what shops and locations would you recommend at Bicester Village? Well you have to visit Gucci. I love Gucci by Alessandro Michele.
What pieces are you loving right now? Is it their brocade coats or fur slides? There are some wonderful silk crepe shirts in there, and there was a great corduroy jacket as well when I visited the other day. I love that 70s spirit.
Any other stores that you love at Bicester Village? Prada can be quite good. Check out the knitwear. And I also like Dolce & Gabbana sometimes; they can have some great shoes. Also, I don't normally like Ralph Lauren, but it can be good for a Fair Isle jumper or striped shirt.
And in terms of eatery of choice? Where would you take a break? Definitely Farmshop by Soho House. They have a great menu and do good coffee.
Do you have any icons or influences in terms of men's style? In terms of men's style? It's a classic one, but David Hockneyfor his amazing use of colour, amazing suits, and also use of rugby shirts with tailoring.
Yeah, I can see how you would naturally gravitate to Hockney. Looking at menswear now, what do you wish men would wear more or less of? Wear more colour! That's why I love Gucci so much. When I did menswear, that's what I tried to do: Add a lot of colour and personality. Before Alessandro Michele at Gucci, there wasn't anyone really doing that. That's why I think it's been so successful. Their clothes are so interesting.
You launched your own design studio in 2015. What made you take that leap of faith to start your own thing? I've always wanted to do my own thing. I was working for an interior designer at the time and I was drawing and designing my own fabrics, and basically, I just got enough commissions to start my own studio. I wasn't going to start unless I had the means to support it properly. My first project was to do illustrations for a hotel in California and, before I knew it, one thing led to another.
Looking back to when you first started, could you have imagined that you would be doing the type of work and collaborating with the brands that you are now? Definitely not. When I set off, it was obviously quite scary, but I couldn't have predicted the type of projects that I do now. It's fun. I don't have a business plan at all. People are always telling me, "You need a business plan", but I just quite like making it up as I go.
Yeah, just going with the flow. You've already collaborated with the likes of Burberry, Stubbs & Wooten, and now Bicester Village. What other companies — or people — would you like to work with? I love hotels and restaurants. My dream project would be to design a country house hotel. I think I could do it in a way that's quite unexpected.
Excellent. Finally, what do you want for Christmas and why? Gosh. You know, I just booked a holiday — it's actually after Christmas — and I'm quite excited about that. We're going to LA for a few days and we're going up to Big Sur and we're staying in tents. I guess as I'm getting older I just like experiences...
Getting old? Oh come on Luke, you're not that old. You're the youngest person in the room! (Laughs) (Laughs). My partner and I will still buy each other presents, but for my birthday I just like to go down to The River Café — it's my favourite restaurant in London — because I just like experiences and they mean more to me than presents. But that's why I'm looking forward to this trip to LA because I'm currently craving nature, and I can't wait to immerse myself in great Californian nature.
Bicester Village is just a 46 minute train ride from Marylebone Station, London.