There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the death of the High Street recently with the closure of Jessops, Blockbusters and HMV not forgeting Currys. Yes it’s true in part that they were affected by the behemoth that is Amazon, which is in turn, part of the beast that is the Internet. And I’m as guilty as you of pushing the convenience button and waiting for the postman. But in this world, one must adapt or die and perhaps they didn’t manage to do that in time.
Let’s take another look at the High Street. Because when it comes to furniture the picture is a little different. Some of those big stores have teamed up with smaller, even unknown, designers to produce great collections at really good prices. Granted, they’re not competing with Amazon when it comes to selling sofas, but they still need to bring the punters in through the doors.
John Lewis has been good at this for some time now. Remember the launch of House last year? But there’s more. Last year, while researching Objects of Design on lighting, I found a number of fantastic pieces by small designers that were being sold by John Lewis, as part of their Design Collective venture. This includes designers such as Bethan Gray and Timorous Beasties.
We all know about Marks & Spencer and Terence Conran, which was a great coup for the store which seems to be struggling when it comes to its fashion creds. And it has also signed up the Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, whose products have been featured in the MoMA and the V&A.
House of Fraser, quick to realise the potential of a partnership with the Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, has teamed up with Rachel Ashwell, of Shabby Chic to produce a range of bedding and bedroom furniture.
And the store has also just announced a collaboration with the American company Dwell Studio, which is really exciting. The collection, Living by Dwell Studio, will launch in 20 stores nationwide and online on 1 March.
The collection includes three lines; monochrome and bronze (seen above and below) and pretty, which is a pink and lilac palette mixed with gold.
And what about Debenhams? John Rocha and Ben de Lisi have been on the payroll for years but now they have added Ashley Thomas and Yukari Sweeney.
But perhaps the most surprising partnership is that between DFS and French Connection. Yes, you heard right. This came about because of a 20 year friendship between the two CEOs and the whole collection; New England, which is available in selected stores and online, is made in the UK and has a ten year springs and frame guarantee.
I must admit I thought something was up last year when I spotted the Shout Range from DFS. Patchwork sofas are very on trend and although some may feel it’s copying a more artisan handmade version, at £699 rather than several thousand that does put it more within reach for most of us. It is however also made in Britain and has a ten year frame and springs guarantee.
Of course, this partnership works for the designers too who get to reach a wider audience with their work. Online furniture retailer Made.com has been very good at this with partnerships with Steurt Padwick, James Harrison and Jimmie Martin to name a few.
So, while there’s no doubt that the High Street is suffering, it seems like some of the big stores are cleverly looking for ways to adapt. Let’s hope it works out.
And in the meantime there’s one more collaboration we’re waiting for … H&M have teamed up with Maison Margiela, Marni and Jimmy Choo in fashion. Just imagine what they could come up with in the furniture line. We’re waiting….