The Selfridges windows have always been a highlight of Oxford Street, drawing in thousands of people annually when they turn on the Oxford Street Christmas lights. When I passed Selfridges at the beginning of this month I was delighted by a very unusual sign that grabbed my attention immediately.

I crossed the road and found out that Selfridges have opened up their doors for a festival of beauty for the coming month, with a live salon asking many big questions about beauty with a month-long calendar of events.

Being a supporter and member of All Walks Beyond The Catwalk, I was excited to see their window displays engaging with the bigger questions while still promoting fashion and beauty. I ended up walking around the whole building taking pictures before I even entered.

Below are some of the fantastic windows that were on display.

That was not the only quote that was either thought provoking or inspiring.

 

Before I walked into the store I was uplifted and motivated by these windows and giant banners of a diverse range of beauty with their choice of models replacing the standard yellow Selfridges banners that hang usually outside the store.

I feel that too much of shopping has been about feeling ashamed of your body or even reducing your confidence so that the need to buy fills an empty hole left by the lack of confidence and self-belief. I have witnessed this effect and tactic being used by sales assistants through my experience of working in retail. I have ended up being horrified by the effect this has on people. It is the one thing that puts me off shopping, as that emotional hole is always being deepened through imagery, size issues and much more. It is an emotional hole that can never truly be filled or satisfied. This has led to the retail theory that if a shopper goes into a store already happy and confident with themselves, they will buy less. By keeping up the barrage of idealised beauty, they get to feel that it’s the product making them happy and therefore complete, at least for that season.

Contrast this with the displays in the Selfridges windows and the imagery on the building. Before I even walked into the store, I felt that this positive celebration of beauty made me want to go in the store and to buy instead of leaving me in a negative mood. Will uplifting imagery that reinforces positive of self and body really work in a shopping environment?

The standard way of selling that is about making people feel they need something to complete themselves. This experience is about celebrating uniqueness and differences, and people can walk into the store and feel uplifted while they look at the products. This whole spectacular display of beauty that has been created in association with Dove is called ‘The Beauty Project’.

When entering Selfridges, the Beauty halls and the perfumery department is what you are first hit by, and this can be a daunting experience for some to start with. However, counteracting the highly airbrushed images of the makeup brands and fragrances tempting you with their bottles of elixir of youth and desire, there are now five large, spectacular photos of diverse and realistic beauty displayed: from middle-aged women to tattooed men.

Injecting a bit of fun and humour to what can be a heavy subject the store has photo booths with pink afros and mannequins with beards.

As a member of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, which has pioneered diversity within fashion imagery and believing that positivity sells, I feel that the Selfridges concept for this month, ‘The Beauty Project’, is empowering. It should be celebrated for bringing the discussion openly to the high street and beyond.

  • For more on the beauty project you can use their official hashtag #beautyproject on Twitter.
  • On Selfridges’ website diary of Salon events you can visit http://style.selfridges.com/store/london
  • Finally All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Co-Founder Caryn Franklin can be found in one of the talks in the Salon discussing ‘Should airbrushing be banned?’

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Michael Williamson is a designer, stylist, blogger and a long-term member of the All Walks team, having been with us from the very beginning.

Check out his blog, Quirky Gentleman’s Club, to keep your finger on the pulse of all things fashion – especially London based.

Follow Michael on YouTube and on Twitter @mwfrost