Harvey Nichols, the new breed: real genius or impostor?

Let’s face it: Harvey Nichols remains a sort of mystery for any foreigner living in London. Because the luxury store is pretty confusing: you know what you’ll get at Harrod’s: a mix of premium classic brands, great food and gorgeous Egyptian escalator; you also know what you’ll get at Westfield: an American mall for classic fashion & luxury brands; you also already know you’re going to love Selfridges (not only because we’ve watched Mr Selfridge…). But when it comes to Harvey Nichols, you can hesitate between the impression to attend a masterpiece of British genius or the worst of mass consumerism.

Harvey Nichols had a long track-record of provocative ads. For instance, The Harvey Nichols Walk of Shame “which promised to make every girl’s worst nightmare a stylish one has been cleared of sexism by the Advertising Standards Authority”. To be fair, my first reaction as a male fashion blogger was to dramatically laugh. Why? Because it seems SO close to what I experience in London after 10pm on Friday night: girls who used to be beautiful hours earlier were suddenly wasted, losing any sort of glamor.

But when I watched the ad again, I suddenly felt sorry both for the girls and also for Harvey Nichols: most of their consumers are not thin preppy ladies but British ones. And the British girls are not all skinny; making fun of only fat girls in this ad was a business misconception. And when you condemn a specific population, you expect a new inspiring role-models. But at the end of this film, you have a very conservative proposal: a lady wearing a chic dress going back home, saying hello to the postman (so it means that the girl is probably not working so you can wonder how she got this fabulous property). As a modern man, I hate this cliché conception of womanhood. And as a citizen, I wonder if Harvey Nichols realizes what modern women’s daily lives are.

Harvey Nichols has just released a new campaign, presenting adorable dogs in premium it bags. It’s called “the new breed“. As Phong Lulu reports, “you’ll get special “doggy-bag” packaging with every purchase at the Knightsbridge flagship“. And again, I’m confused; the only girls and boys I’ve seen wearing pets in their bags were either very strong stereotypes of Cliché or nice grand-mothers. It could have been funny, but the manifesto written by Paula Reed, Harvey Nichols Fashion Director, is not really offbeat:

“Between the superstars that dazzle in the fashion firmament, there is a galaxy of twinkling gems…these innovators, conceptualists, shining talents and early adopters all features on the pages to follow…”

So it’s not ironic, but a truly engaging brand manifesto to highlight the “next generation”.

Harvey Nichols: you need a new art direction (or at least to talk internally about what you want to say to us, your consumers).


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