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  • Alison Catchpole


Digital platforms are growing beyond expectation.

It’s not news that the High Street is no longer the hub of activity that it used to be.

Instagram (loving it) and Twitter (not got to that so seriously yet) are now an essential part of the fashion industry’s publicity machine. Even smaller companies are employing dedicated social media editors, something which, ten years ago, would have been unheard of. Digital is integral to a successful fashion business. Its impact is far reaching.

So it should be no surprise that Matthew Williamson, he of the wonderful peacock prints and Sienna Miller boho gowns, is to close his London Bruton Street shop and go entirely digital. This must have been a very challenging decision for someone who clearly loves interiors and takes pride in a direct link with his clientele.

LFW show at the Royal Opera House, February 2012

Meeting and interviewing Matthew was great. It was a few years ago, in the elegant Mayfair townhouse where his studio had always been, right around a few corners from the flagship store. The PR had indicated he would be warm, funny, terrific. He was. Hugely influenced by his mother’s cultivated elegance, he had been driven to create a brand from scratch with his then boyfriend and now business partner, Joseph Velosa. Williamson commented at the time on the need for British designers to start off from scratch, with nothing, generally scraping by and roughing it. He, his boyfriend and his parents lived for a time in a tiny flat in Holborn, to get his business underway.

Matthew Williamson’s Bruton Street store, far from digital as a physical experience

Since then he’s grown from strength to strength. Always colourful and clever, his collections have floated down the runways of London Fashion Week each season, until now. With even smaller brands having to find over £30,000 to fund a catwalk show, it’s hardly surprising that they are looking for other ways to move forward. Williamson hasn’t clarified whether he’ll close his lucrative overseas stores, such as Dubai (seen below) but this will no doubt depend on the culture toward a digital economy.

Matthew Williamson store in the Dubai Mall, UAE

Typically vibrant clothing – thinking pink

The calculation must be that it’s worth losing a permanent London shop front, with decreasing footfall, to concentrate on online merchandising.

Perhaps the future will be rosy after all.

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