Dropped into the lovely Simpson of Piccadilly yesterday – now no longer a classy clothing department store but a giant Waterstones book shop. When I got my first proper job I used to get my shirts there (I seem to remember you could buy a shirt from them and they’d repair the collar for you every time it wore out for nothing – can that possibly be true?). The shop was built especially for Simpson (home of the Daks brand – ready-to-wear innovators at a time when men still had their suits made for them) in 1936 and Waterstones have retained most of the important detail (I suppose they had no choice) – including the tiny lifts, the handsome curving handrails in the six storey stairwell and the genuinely beautiful curved glass windows on the Piccadilly side.
That other retail shrine in Tottenham Court Road – Heal’s (also a Victorian design pioneer) – had similar windows but I guess they’re a dreadful waste of retail space and now they’re gone. I’m certain removing them was a false economy since they do beautiful things for the stock on display – canceling glare entirely even on a sunny day. Simpson was an innovator in its time – pioneering mass produced style and industrial-era marketing techniques – so I guess it’s appropriate that modern innovators Waterstones should be there now.
(Click the small pics for bigger ones).