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Through the Shop Window

In the spring of 2015, the Through the Shop Window exhibition featured at Shanghai Fashion Week as fashion and architecture met again, when RIBA architects took over the retail windows in Shanghai’s most famous shopping plaza, Xintiandi Style, and showcased their talents as part of the RIBA Shanghai Windows Project 2015.

Shopping, regarded by many as the nation’s favourite pastime is driven by our desire for ever new, constantly changing fashions and goods. In turn the demands of our shopping habits has led to the rapidly, ever changing architecture and design of shops. By their very nature shop designs and displays tend to be very ephemeral, quickly consigned to history and only recorded for posterity by the photographer’s camera or the architect’s pen.

Through the Shop Window captures the evolution of British shopping trends in the middle of the twentieth century beginning with the stylish glamour of Art Deco, its glitz and chrome a luxurious antidote to the harsh times of the Depression. After the Second World War’s austerity came Modernism, far simpler, yet often extremely elegant with large picture windows rendering the shop fronts almost transparent, their interiors revealed to all. Witness how many of the photographs displayed here were photographed at night emphasizing their theatricality and tempting you to enter. Then finally the vitality of the “Swinging Sixties” with that coolest destination of all, London’s Carnaby Street.

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Gay Kaye Ltd handbag shop, 4 New Bond Street, London

Speight, Sadie (1906-1992)

Keddies Department Store, Southend-on-Sea, Essex: escalator to first floor

Yorke Rosenberg & Mardall
NOTES: This store occupied two storeys of a mixed use block: the second and third floors were used for parking and the eight top floors for offices. The store ceased trading in the mid 1990s.

John Lewis temporary shop, Oxford Street, London: the Holles Street corner

John Lewis Partnership. Architects' Department
NOTES: R. H. Pearson was the architect in charge of this project. This temporary shop occupied part of the large blitzed area on the north side of Oxford Street where the John Lewis store stood before World War II.

Relaxing by the summerhouse on the roof garden of Derry and Toms department store, Kensington High Street, London

NOTES: This was a setting for Modern Woman magazine. When Derry and Toms department store was built in 1931-1933, London County Council forbade the inclusion of the seventh floor due to the limit of fire service ladders but the building had the structural potential for another floor. On completion of the building, a roof garden was planned to cover this large open space which took three years to build and opened to the public in 1938.