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Exclusive: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen: What Makes Retail Exciting

Designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was among the celebrities at last week’s Spring Fair, unveiling a decorative home accessories range for Febland.

 “Febland have the cutting edge in the ‘Mob Wife’ trend – leopard print, long nails, big hair, growly, like Lady Gaga, and that’s exactly what I’ve encapsulated in my collection,” he told GiftsandHome.net. “It attaches a bit of emotion and passion to the things that people want to buy.”

Explained Laurence, “the multiples, the retail giants, are all looking for mainstream trends that are about pleasing as many people as possible, a very practical sense of buying stuff because they know it’s going to work. However, while I was at the show, I chatted to a few of the retailers that came to the Febland stand, and one told me that he’d invested in a shop full of pink flamingos. While one person might take two steps into the shop, panic and back out because it’s not their thing, another customer will come in and buy that, that, that and that. And that’s what makes retail exciting, and what retail, gift, the whole market sector, should be about – attaching a bit of emotion and a bit of passion to objects that people want to buy.”

Above: Designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen unveiled his decorative home collection on the Febland stand.
Above: Designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen unveiled his decorative home collection on the Febland stand.

Asked by GiftsandHome.net how Laurence sees retail evolving this year, he said that people are still demanding an enormous amount from their retailers. “However, I think that’s a very good thing,” he stated. “A lot of consumers are mistrusting the absolute bargain end of the market. They know when something is a cover and they want to fall in love. There is immense economic and geopolitical insecurity at the moment, and their money is important to them. When consumers buy something they want it to be worth it.”

He said that speaking as a designer, there had to be absolute commitment. “People today have a level of sophistication and literacy and won’t be fobbed off with boring stuff that everyone else is doing. Therefore now is an opportunity for retailers to buy brave because those that do will sell loads.”

He passionately believes that physical retail is incredibly important. “You get to a stage where you become bored with the internet. When you buy something online it is essentially very solitary, not a terribly nourishing experience. It’s about buying something specific which is delivered. However, when you go into bricks and mortar retail, you are looking for something but then see a whole load of other stuff that you engage with. Plus, you are talking to a human and not a bot. You’ve got a relationship going.”

Above: Laurence Llewelyn with GiftsandHome.net’s Sue Marks at Spring Fair.
Above: Laurence Llewelyn with GiftsandHome.net’s Sue Marks at Spring Fair.

Continued Laurence: “Another reason I think that independent retail and the high street is doing well is that independents are part of the community. The owner might be a mum with a child at the local school, a dad who is seen on the football pitch. The chances are that you might know them, and if you don’t, once you have bought something from them there is a relationship going, and suddenly, as a customer, you feel that you are part of a rooted community.

“The other aspect is that we are moving away from orthodoxy and new trends starting in cities. The big thing now is that start ups are happening in rural and, more accurately, suburban areas. We are now looking at places that are not quite Escape To The Country, but not quite upfront urbane urbanity, which works very well for a start up.”

Laurence’s advice to all bricks and mortar retailers is: “don’t try and sell all things to all men. Be who you are and focus on who you are. If you are Mob Wife then go Mob Wife. And if you are Kelly Hoppen, then be Kelly Hoppen – although you won’t get a Christmas card from me!” he quipped.

Top: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was interviewed by GiftsandHome.net at last week’s Spring Fair.

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