Something strange is happening behind one of London’s great emporiums of luxury. The windows to the street display the latest trends and fashions, but at the rear there is a strange circular door to another world, a world of magic, mystery and the future. Enter the door and you enter into darkness with circular lights drawing you in. Inside the darkness continues, but with pools of light, some of which flow in and out, reflected in the watery sea around the path that you walk on. First you encounter a hall of circular mirrors, with a lighthouse light in the corner and then you are ready to start on your adventure. This is The Flipside, an exploration of luxury and opulence housed ironically in a derelict building – look closely through the darkness and you will see missing floors and exposed brickwork. The location? The empty and unused Selfridges Hotel which would have once been a buzz of noise, activity and chatter as guests came and went, but today hosts interactive and immersive displays by Lowe, Thom Browne, Gareth Pugh, Louis Vuitton, Byredo, Google Pixel and Selfridges itself as they explore the future of luxury.
Not surprisingly, there are several links with environmental sustainability. Lowe reminds us of things that have been but are no more, linked to a future green world, Gareth Pugh’s videos link luxury to nature and timelessness, while Byredo explores a potential future where clean water is so scarce that it is a luxury product (as indeed it is in some countries), Thom Browne’s fashions link to fantastic mythical animals such as unicorns and mermaids and Louis Vuitton takes inspiration from around the world for its designs. As a contrast, Mr Lyan explores personalisation as a differentiating luxury with his cocktails that reflect your personality and spirit.
Lastly, Google Pixel 2 shows s future world of photography as digital imaging becomes more and more sophisticated. There will no longer be need to travel for that selfie – you can invent it yourself.
Will Selfridge’s Hotel be redeveloped some day? It would be a great loss if such an exhibition space in the heart of London disappeared.