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The secret service

Victoria’s Secret is synonymous with seduction so it was imperative that the lighting of its UK flagship store be equally alluring. Office of [Light]’s Russell Lipscombe bares all to Jill Entwistle and explains why achieving an end result that satisfied everyone was no easy feat

Described recently by The Guardian, not entirely kindly, as the Playboy Club of lingerie brands, US underwear chain Victoria’s Secret is phenomenally successful. And you don’t get to create a multinational, multi-billion dollar business out of knickers without a pretty clear idea of what you’re about. The bottom line, as it were, is that if a formula works, don’t change it.

However, a conservative corporate approach can be a little constrictive when it comes to design, and specifically lighting design. ‘We tried to introduce a lot of new ideas and although not all of them were eventually accepted, we did make a few changes,’ says Russell Lipscombe of Office of Light, the company responsible for lighting the new flagship store in London’s New Bond Street, which opened at the end of last year.

The best reflection

For one thing, while Victoria’s Secret wanted to stick primarily with its two-and three-way gimbal fittings for accenting, Lipscombe managed to convince it to move from tungsten halogen to 20W and 35W CDM lamps. The Pure spotlights by Flos  – the main supplier throughout – have specially recessed light heads and feature reflectors coated in nitric gold to achieve a colour rendition closer to tungsten.

This also reduced the intensity of the light which was useful in the all-black interior of the ground floor where the sexier underwear is displayed. Narrow beams create a theatrical effect and light is carefully controlled with lenses and reflectors to stop it bouncing around any high-gloss surfaces. ‘One of the issues here was dealing with the different contrasts and different reflections,’ says Lipscombe.

The same fittings with wider beams were used on the first floor, the more commercial area, where finishes are pink. Luminaires were custom painted to the ceiling colour. The wall shelving and units here were an area where Lipscombe failed to convince them to switch from fluorescent. ‘We tried to introduce LEDs in the shelving but [Victoria’s Secret] wanted to stick with T5s,’ says Lipscombe. ‘It wasn’t about cost. There wasn’t even a budget on this job.’

“We tried to introduce LEDs in the shelving but the company wanted to stick with T5s. It wasn’t about cost. There wasn’t even a budget on this job.”

Russell Lipscombe, Office of [Light]

The same applied to the commissioned Venetian chandeliers- Victoria’s Secret wanted to stay with tungsten halogen candle lamps, though they are on dimmers to prolong lamp life.

The New Bond Street store is rather grander than the average Victoria’s Secret outlet, with a large entrance hall, second floor VIP lounge and fitting rooms. Lipscombe found it easier to make the case for LEDs when it came to the three landscaped terraces outside where ACDC blade lights outline the hedges, iGuzzini LED uplights help to define the trees and LightGraphix external LED tubes underlight concrete seating.

The art of seduction

Moving back inside, lighting on the stairway is subtle to counter the bright three-storey LCD screen on the wall behind which runs images from the catwalk shows. “We did a lot of tests and mock-ups with the screen so we could see what the light needed to do,” says Lipscombe. The top of the stairway is lit by Roblon fibre optics in a special lighting slot around the edge of the ceiling, supplied by Light Projects. LightGraphix fixtures on every other tread light the stairs themselves.

THE SECRET OF SUCCESS

Victoria’s Secret, the largest US retailer of lingerie, was founded in 1977 and is based in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. With an operating income of $1 billion, 2012 sales totalled $6.12 billion. The company sells lingerie, womenswear and beauty products through its 1,000 US stores, catalogues and website. The New Bond Street outlet, measuring 3,752sqm and spread over four floors, is the first in the UK and also includes the Pink brand, which is usually separate and aimed at teenagers. There is now also a store in Westfield Stratford (lighting also by Office of Light) and others planned outsode London

There are two further key innovations that Lipscombe introduced. The first was the idea of a lantern concept for the building when viewed from outside. A series of light boxes was created by combining blinds on a timer with ACDC LED blade fixtures in all the window reveals. The symmetry of the building lends itself perfectly to the approach.

Another first was the customer-controlled scene-setting in the VIP fitting rooms. Fittings-all tungsten halogen-comprise an outer ring of downlights, two more positioned between customer and mirror, plus traditional shaded wall lights flanking the mirror. The Flos downlights have a white reflector to help avoid shadowing on the dark, richly coloured wallcovering, while the Lutron system allows switching between the three circuits to create “seductive, daylight and night-time” scenes. “That was something the company has never done before,’ says Lipscombe.

PROJECT DETAILS

Client Limited Brands

Lighting design Office of Light

Interior architect O’Neil Langan Architects with UK-based HMKM

Services consultant EEP

Main contractor Goodman Hichens

M+E contractor MCE Electrical

 

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