There are seasonal markers in London to denote the start of the festive season. The unveiling of Selfridge’s windows is one. This year’s theme is called Shine On (apparently ‘Alpine rave meets Palm Springs’), while John Lewis’ advertising campaign is always anticipated. The latter features Boxer the Bulldog enjoying a sneaky trampoline session that oozes with cuteness.
As for trees and their decoration, it is usually to Claridge’s that the style set look for trends to emulate and this year’s unveiling, on Friday 18th November, did not disappoint. The hotel lobby has been designed by Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer and Marc Newson; two of the most imminent designers in the world as well as regular guests at the hotel.
They follow in the footsteps of other ‘friends of Claridge’s’ such as Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana and Christopher Bailey who have incorporated their design DNA into tree dressing. This year it’s not just a tree – rather a festive installation and an immersive experience that plays with “the relationship between nature and technology, tradition and the future and between three dimensions and two”.
Set designer Michael Howells collaborated with Ive and Newson to create a magical forest landscape. Commenting on the installation, Jony and Marc said, “There are few things more pure and beautiful than nature, so that was our starting point, layering various iterations of organic forms with technology.
Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognising our excitement about the future and things to come.”
Claridge’s lobby is lined with four metre high light boxes that glow with black and white photographic images of snow covered silver birch trees, set on a pure white floor. Against this backdrop, are models of Scots pine, layered with both natural and photographed silver birch and fir trees, rising to a canopy of natural green pine. Playing with proportions, a young three feet high tree grows amongst the forest, symbolic of the future. A bright white light ebbs and flows, fading to a night scene and back through sunrise to day, on a continuous cycle.
Verdict: Not as expected though stunning nonetheless, this brings the best of tradition and technology to the famous Art Deco lobby. I like the fact that the trees are bare of elaborate decorations too; it’s more Grimm’s fairytales than mainstream Mayfair. Only in Claridge’s could the forest be recreated given the lobby’s high ceiling, while the monochrome flooring offsets the greenery beautifully. Seeing is definitely believing; I can’t wait to visit to get the full sense of the magical lighting techniques.