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  • Writer's pictureReynoldsSymes


Updated: Jun 16, 2020

In praise of tea - a run of classic Fortnum & Mason windows celebrating the leaf!

Fortnum and Mason sells tea and lots of it! I was once reliably informed by the Tea Buyer at the time, that if a space to sales merchandising format was introduced (when the amount of space a product is allocated on the sales floor based on its sales return), then two thirds of the ground floor would be tea, most probably Royal Blend….

Tea was classed (quite un-romantically I thought), as an ‘always-on’ product. This meant that like other ‘Fortnum-conic’ product ranges, such as hampers, it was never off the marketing calendar, and seldom or so it seemed to me at the time, out of the windows. Not that I’ve anything against tea (although I’m a coffee man myself}, but creating at least one window scheme a year based around the qualities of the 'elixir of life' was challenging to say the least.

Every Cup tells a Story was the first product themed window scheme I created for the store and was unveiled in early spring; that awkward time in the window calendar sandwiched between the end of sale and the clocks springing forward - at which point (prior to Covid-19), we start to feel alive again.

Each of the store's eight iconic Piccadilly windows promoted a particular nuance of a Fortnum's blend of tea; FRESHNESS. REFINED, STRENGTH, AROMA, TASTE, RARITY, UPLIFTING & CALMING. In each window a structure arose from a single cup (bought from Ikea and sprayed Fortnum's eau-de-nil!). that expressed the characteristic we were illustrating. Each 'icon' was to grow in size as it rose into the window - as if ‘exploding’ out of the teacup.

We liked ‘exploding’ things at Fortnum’s- exploding hampers, exploding champagne bottles, exploding gift boxes and very occasionally, exploding window electrical fittings!

STRENGTH - details of window design and construction

Two of my favorites, and certainly the most challenging of the windows to create were ‘STRENGTH" - an enormous and complicated wooden sculpture, inspired by an Arne Quinze installation ’The Sequence’ and

‘REFINED’ - which involved metres of expanded aluminum mesh (evoking steam), wrapped around a mannequin adopting a ballerina pose.

As the construction process brewed, I mulled over how to explain the attributes of each blend, settling on a solitary plinth in each window featuring a single caddy of tea, with copy expounding the attributes of the tea featured. i particularly dislike huge vinyl graphics (as was the trend at that time), explaining "idiot style" what the window is about. I find this patronizing to the customer and demeaning for the brand. I was smacked on the wrist by the Marketing Team, but stuck to my guns, leaving Fortnum's viewing public to decide for themselves. I always had faith in the imagination of the store clientele.

REFINED - details of window design and construction

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