Of all the department stores in London, only one is located on the capital’s iconic designer shopping artery, Bond Street. Fenwick has been called ‘a petite department store bursting at the seams with head-turning outfits’ and, indeed, the bijoux emporium is unique for its tight edit of exclusive designer fashion and beauty brands that cannot be found elsewhere.
Opened in 1891, Fenwick’s Bond Street store had doubled its size by 1980. But it is only one of 11 branches of the department store, which was founded in 1882 in Newcastle upon Tyne by John James Fenwick. When his son Fred Fenwick joined the business they brought a new retail concept to the UK: Fred had trained in Paris and was inspired by Le Bon Marché, the world’s first ever department store. The Fenwick family revolutionised retail by putting many different specialist departments under one roof.
The iconic store soon arrived at 63 New Bond Street – still part of the building which dominates the corner with Brook Street – offering bespoke fashion for women. From that initial small shop, the store now houses five floors of fashion for both men and women, beauty, designer labels, a restaurant, two cafés and specialist treatment rooms. Fenwick is still family owned and its Newcastle headquarters is one of the largest and most significant department stores in the UK, famous for its extravagant Christmas windows.
Fenwick of Bond Street celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016 with exclusive events, partnerships and parties. ‘We decided to celebrate 125 years,’ explains Leo Fenwick, buying manager of menswear at Fenwick Bond Street, ‘because now felt like the right time. We had something to talk about, to share this secret on the corner of Bond Street.’ The anniversary also saw Fenwick launching its Anniversary Collection of leather handbags. ‘We had our own line from 1882 until the 1980s when it was phased out,’ says Leo. ‘The last thing to go was accessories, so in this relaunch we are picking up where we left off, and revisiting the essence of the Fenwick brand. We will build on the collection with more soft accessories and, in the future, possibly feature a small women and menswear collection too.’
In spite of their splendour, in every location that Fenwick has one of its shops, they are most passionately loved by locals who regard the department store as their own. The store in Colchester has just reopened after a £35m refurbishment, which has seen the addition of 70 new brands, and each of those brands has been handpicked to appeal to the Colchester customer’s tastes. Every store in the country has its own buyer – there is no centralised buying, which allows each store to retain a unique selection – as each store has a strong relationship with its location and the local customer base.
Relationships are important to Fenwick, as demonstrated when, on Bond Street’s 125th anniversary, an 80-year-old customer presented Fenwick with her mother’s wedding leaving outfit still in its box. This sort of generations-long connection and family feeling distinguishes Fenwick, while the exceptional curation of its fashion and beauty brands draws in new, younger customers. Fenwick’s genius is to be able to do this without alienating existing clients.
The Bond Street store is special for being a part of the DNA of its area and a destination, above all, for Londoners who love to browse the brands exclusive to Fenwick, have a make-up lesson, pick a jaunty hat or have a GANKIN facial or visit Radio London Salon, where Redchurch Street customers can have the greatest blow-dry in Mayfair. Glossy magazine editors and fashion cognoscenti can be spotted dining in the elegant Bond Street Kitchen restaurant, while mothers and daughters spend a leisurely day shopping and lunching together. Fenwick’s new See You At 8 service means parts of the store are open at 8am, so the local workforce can see to their eyebrows or manicures or buy tights alongside their coffee from Clean and Lean Café before starting work. ‘How can we make our customers’ lives easier – that’s the question that we always ask ourselves,’ says Leo. ‘Everything we do is considered.’ This measured consideration is what makes Fenwick a part of the very fabric of London, a world-class emporium truly loved by fashion-conscious locals.
FENWICK 63 NEW BOND STREET, LONDON W1A 1RQ +44 (0)20 7629 9161