LONDON — Harrods has a new, blue hue, the fruit of a monthlong takeover by Burberry, which has transformed the store into a luxe campground filled with the brand’s latest check patterns and color palette.
Burberry’s takeover, which runs from Thursday to Feb. 29, is the first major event of Harrods’ 175th anniversary year. In another first, the “green men” who stand at the entrances to Harrods will be wearing an entirely different color: Burberry’s new “knight blue” check, which was introduced by designer Daniel Lee for spring 2024.
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Harrods’ Brompton Road facade will also turn blue for the first time following a multiyear project to install thousands of LED lights. Going forward, the light installation will allow the store to turn any color it wants — and create different displays.
The store, which over the past 18 months has worked with Dior and Louis Vuitton on large-scale takeovers, will also see its famous green awnings turned into tent canopies made from the seasonal Burberry check.
Its windows will be decorated with camping equipment such as ropes, waterproof fabrics and carabiners, and a host of limited-edition Burberry merchandise.
Lee introduced the camping theme during his debut runway collections last year. Both were held under giant tents in London parks, while last September’s show — which took place in Highbury Fields — even had a little truck parked outside serving coffee and takeaway snacks.
Over the past year Lee has designed hot water bottles and thick, woolen military blankets with the Burberry check. He’s given an outdoorsy spin to footwear and outerwear, and featured baby ducks, dogs and roses in his ad campaigns.
For the Harrods takeover, Lee said he wanted “to celebrate two iconic British brands coming together. So we designed a capsule collection [that] includes variations of our signature bags: Knight, Chess and Rocking Horse.”
The capsule features more than 40 pieces exclusive to Harrods, in-store and online, for the month of February and spans womenswear, menswear, childrenswear and accessories.
Lee has added a cream and green leaf-like pattern with a subtle B-shaped logo to bags, pillows and hot water bottle covers, and turned Burberry’s napa leather Knight bag a shade of Harrods green.
He’s added an abstract frog illustration, in purple, green and yellow, to silk separates, and a rope detail in the shape of a B to a sweater.
There are also new iterations of the Chess and Rocking Horse bags; the Box sneaker in new colors, and exclusive eyewear styles.
That rugged outdoors theme winds its way around the store from the windows on Brompton Road and Hans Crescent to the Burberry “camping corner,” which will be located inside the store, directly across from door nine.
The camping corner will offer classic British hiking accessories, including a bespoke Burberry knight bottle opener; a limited-edition orienteering map of Knightsbridge, and Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake, a popular confection among explorers and mountaineers.
The “cake,” which is made from sugar and peppermint oil, was carried on the first successful summit of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
There will also be two Burberry popups and a dedicated rainwear space with Burberry trenchcoats.
To mark the Harrods anniversary, Burberry has customized a limited-edition run of Harrods bears, each wearing a miniature hand-embroidered scarf. The brand has also curated a custom Harrods hamper, with a camping-inspired offer and a limited-edition Burberry picnic blanket in knight blue.
The takeover is also happening virtually via Roblox and, for the first time, the Harrods’ facade has been recreated in the game. This will be Burberry’s second time launching an experience in Roblox, and players will be able to explore the digital environment and unlock exclusive Burberry items.
A virtual filter in partnership with Snap, and an in-store digital experience, are part of the monthlong show.
It was an easy partnership for both companies.
“Harrods and Burberry are a British pairing as classic as tea and scones. Both brands were founded within a few years of each other, and together we have held up a mirror to the rapidly changing face of Britain through some of its most formative years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods’ managing director.
“From Harrods stocking early iterations of [Burberry’s] iconic gabardine trench for our adventurous London clientele, to celebrating adventures in the great British countryside, our brands have built a shared heritage rooted in British values,” he added.
Ward said that in the anniversary year it was important to partner with a brand that “speaks to our shared values of craftsmanship, timelessness and British eccentricity.”
The takeover represents a homecoming for Burberry’s chief executive officer Jonathan Akeroyd, who began his career at Harrods in the late ’80s and held senior roles at the company, working closely with former owner Mohamed Al Fayed.
Akeroyd left Harrods to helm businesses including Alexander McQueen and Versace before being named CEO of Burberry in 2021. Akeroyd’s background in retail is one of his strengths and he’s a natural when it comes to merchandising and the shop floor experience.
He said Burberry wanted to create an experience at Harrods that was “exciting and memorable, and also very Burberry — very British. Daniel has really leaned into our Britishness to design a world that captures our spirit of adventure and exploration in a way that feels both modern and rooted in tradition.”
Akeroyd added: “This is woven into every element of the takeover, from the [green men] uniforms to the tent canopies outside the store, to the dedicated rainwear space and camping-themed pop-up, which offers a modern take on classic hiking accessories.
“It’s playful and, at the same time, connected to our heritage. We have created a place of discovery where our customers can step away from the day to day and delve into our brand and history,” Akeroyd said.
The takeover is meant to engage passersby, and the general public.
By day, there will be a food truck, similar to the one at Burberry’s September show, serving British pastries and hot drinks. Nearby, a picnic space on Hans Crescent will feature Burberry knight blue benches.
By night, Harrods will light up its facade in Burberry blue.
The store said that as part of its commitment to reduce direct emissions by 2030, it has replaced the external lighting on Brompton Road with an LED setup that’s around 80 percent more energy efficient than the former one, which dates back to the late 1950s.
Harrods said the new LED system is similar, design-wise, to the old one and highlights the architectural elements of the facade. It also provides ample opportunity for innovative lighting displays.
Harrods partnered with L’Observatoire International, which has worked on a variety of historic buildings around the world, on the LED project. It involved cleaning of the terracotta facade and general repair and maintenance works, and was fully completed in January, in time to turn the facade Burberry blue.
The investment coincides with Harrods’ efforts to leverage its prime position in the heart of Knightsbridge, and to partner with big brands on major marketing initiatives.
The Burberry takeover comes a year after Harrods partnered with Yayoi Kusama to create a colorful, dotted universe — with help from robotics, augmented reality and gaming — at the store.
The Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama spectacle included 27 Harrods windows adorned with giant colored dots.
The windows were alive with anamorphic displays, and featured spinning pumpkins and life-sized digital films of the Japanese artist watering surreal plants and watching them sprout, flower and move like little animals.
A few months earlier, Dior staged its own takeover of Harrods with “The Fabulous World of Dior.” The event drew inspiration from the brand’s 30 Avenue Montaigne flagship and encompassed 44 windows, the facade of the Knightsbridge store, a café and two pop-up shops.
The centerpiece was an immersive experience that traced the life of founder Christian Dior, and the evolution of the couture house.
It featured animated tableaux made from large and small gingerbread cookies, piped icing and colored candy. A mega-star measuring 17 meters, or almost 60 feet, hung above the Brompton Road entrance, and formed part of a lavish 3D display.
Ward said brand takeovers have become a highlight of the Harrods calendar.
“The challenge we always set is to push ourselves in regard to the customer experience and retail theater. Our brand takeovers become events in of themselves, and while they naturally drive footfall — by offering a unique pop-up or a range of exclusives — they most importantly drive brand equity for us and our partners.
“They challenge us to collectively come up with something totally unique. We always want to go bigger and better with each partnership and to produce something that’s imaginable only when the biggest players in luxury come together,” Ward said.
Ward declined to say which company Harrods planned to partner with next, but confirmed there would be more exclusive products, brand pop-ups and store takeovers in the anniversary year.
Neither Harrods nor the brands have revealed sales figures from the takeovers, but it’s clear they can be money-spinners.
According to industry sources, “The Fabulous World of Dior” generated more than 25 million pounds in sales, and transformed Dior into the number-one bestselling brand at Harrods.
At the time, Harrods declined to confirm the figures, but said Dior was a “top performer” throughout the 2022 festive season.
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