Visitors to London Fashion Week could be forgiven for thinking that the city’s most iconic department stores have fallen victim to a smash-and-grab crime spree as dramatic cracks criss-cross their windows.
But it’s not the work of London’s industrious moped gangs. Instead Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Fortnum & Mason have united to mark the 100-year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK. It’s part of the Mayor of London’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign marking the centenary.
The dramatic window displays commemorate the 1912 West End protests, when he windows of Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Fortnum & Mason department stores were smashed by the suffragettes in a political statement to highlight that the government cared more about buildings than a woman’s life. Today, the stores pay homage to the protests that took place in order to mark the centenary year of women’s suffrage.
Fittingly, Harvey Nichols’ window will be unveiled by Dr. Helen Pankhurst - the granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the British Suffragette movement. Dr. Pankhurst will be joined by leading women who have smashed the glass ceiling in their own careers. The window features a shattered effect and showcases Emmeline’s famous quote: ‘Deeds not Words’.
Harrods’ window includes a red brick background in a nod to the store’s windows smashed by the suffragettes, overlaid with historic posters from the women’s movement. The display also features footage of leading feminists, past and present, who have driven forward gender parity.
Fortnum & Mason has also chosen to feature a smashed window effect, together with hampers which were sent to imprisoned suffragettes in 1912 (including the Chairman’s daughter, Helen Craggs).
Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “I am delighted to see that London’s world-famous department stores are marking this historic year and showing their support for the Mayor’s Behind Every Great City campaign by unveiling these commemorative window displays. The designs that Londoners and visitors to our city can see for the duration of London Fashion Week are a powerful reminder of the protests and rallies that took place on the streets of our city to secure women the fundamental democratic right to vote.”
While the three stores would normally be viewed as rivals, competing for the attention for a certain milieu of London shopper, this project saw the businesses come together to amplify their support for the campaign.
Zia Zareem-Slade, Customer Experience Director at Fortnum & Mason said that her team were ‘honoured’ to be working with their peers at the other stores. “Fortnum’s thrives in a creative environment, working alongside our peers to deliver an impactful campaign to support #BehindEveryGreatCity was a joy. It gave us a chance to retell our history, to tell the stories of the strong women which helped shaped Fortnum’s to what you see today. We couldn’t think of a better time to share these with a new audience.”
It's also a chance for the stores to promote and celebrate their own histories of supporting women. ““As London’s first luxury department store, Harrods has a long history of supporting women in retail. The store introduced the first staff training department in the country with specific courses for women to learn business skills, and advertised in the suffragist press. The store even continued to advertise in titles such as The Suffragette after Harrods was targeted by the Suffragette window smashing campaign of 1912, which we have used as inspiration for our window display,” says Amanda Hill, CM&CO of Harrods.
“From Queen Anne to the Suffragettes, Buyer Rose Taylor and Evelyn Whiteside, the first female retail director - in 311 years, to the current Chairman Kate Hobhouse, women have played a pivotal role at Fortnum’s. Brilliant women have made 181 Piccadilly the hub of creativity it is today, a destination filled with the extraordinary and joy,” said Zia, who explains that diversity is important to the company.