THE BURLINGTON AR­CADE

One of the old­est and most cel­e­brated shop­ping ar­cades in the world, The Burlington Ar­cade is a strik­ing ex­am­ple of the Lon­don shop­ping scene from years gone by.

Exclusively British - - FRONT PAGE - Words | Emma John­son

Be­ing the go-to for the af­flu­ent Vic­to­rian pop­u­la­tion, the ar­cade is steeped in a var­ied and rich his­tory, and, as the first shop­ping ar­cade to have a cov­ered roof, is thought to be the pre­de­ces­sor to the likes of The Pas­sage in St Peters­burg, the first of Europe's grand ar­cades, the Gal­le­ria Vit­to­rio Emanuele II in Mi­lan and Saint-hu­bert Gallery in Brus­sels. Run­ning be­hind Bond Street, from Pic­cadilly through to Burlington Gar­dens, the beau­ti­ful ar­cade, com­plete with its arch­way en­trances and curved shopfronts is pure old-school glam­our. It was de­signed by its cre­ator Lord Ge­orge Cavendish to house beau­ti­ful jew­ellery and fash­ion, and opened on 20 March 1819 with 72 small two-storey units – a num­ber that has since been re­duced to about 40 stores. It boasts its own po­lice force, the Bea­dles re­spon­si­ble for uphold­ing the Ar­cade's strict codes of con­duct for cen­turies – who still wear the tra­di­tional top hats and frock­coats of their pre­de­ces­sors, and pre­vent shop­pers from such in­frac­tions as whistling, hum­ming, run­ning or rid­ing bikes. The Bea­dles even run the renowned Burlington Ar­cade tours, act­ing as in­for­ma­tive his­tor­i­cal guides.

THE BIG NAMES

While some of the stores here are modern names at the cut­ting-edge of con­tem­po­rary style, the Ar­cade still has an air of her­itage and un­der­stated style, and many of the shopfronts bear the orig­i­nal sig­nage from the Ar­cade's early days. To­day, its vin­tage win­dows are dressed to the nines with ev­ery­thing from brogues and bags to can­dles and cash­mere, but es­pe­cially with beau­ti­ful time­pieces, with the likes of The Vin­tage Watch Com­pany, La Perla, Carat, Michael Rose, Bell & Ross and David Dug­gan all in at­ten­dance. For footwear Manolo Blah­nik, Harry’s of Lon­don and Church’s lead the charge, while beauty and fra­grance stores in­clude Pen­haligons, Roja Par­fums, Fred­eric Malle and True Grace. A store ab­so­lutely not to be missed would be N.peal – a Bri­tish brand which pro­vides the high­est qual­ity cash­mere and has the abil­ity to trace its cash­mere back to the in­di­vid­ual herders who tend their goats on the vast steppes of Mon­go­lia. Daniel Craig has sported N.peal in the last two James Bond movies, Sky­fall and Spec­tre. The brand was com­mis­sioned to make a roll neck for Spec­tre which fea­tured in the nail bit­ing chess scene and James Bond was wear­ing the tur­tle neck in the Spec­tre teaser poster.

Also worth a spe­cial visit is Roja, the per­fume store at num­ber 51. Buy­ing scents in here is an un­miss­able ex­pe­ri­ence. Owned by the ec­cen­tric Mr Roja, the de­sign of the shop is flam­boy­ant and quirky, and all per­fume bot­tles are made of beau­ti­ful Swarovski glass. The be­spoke ser­vices are ex­quis­ite but in­cred­i­bly spe­cial - to make your own com­pletely unique scent will set you back £45,000. All the in­gre­di­ents that go into your scent are pure, and he prom­ises that you will never use a chem­i­cal filled depart­ment store per­fume again. Of course, per­haps one of the Burlington Ar­cade's most famed stores is the small but per­fectly-formed Ladurée, at the en­trance to the Ar­cade. An ex­quis­ite ex­pe­ri­ence in sweet treats, it is dec­o­rated like a golden grotto with an ar­ray of rain­bow coloured mac­a­roons cover­ing ev­ery sur­face.

TIM­ING IS EV­ERY­THING

Burlington Ar­cade is in many ways as spe­cial on a quiet Mon­day morn­ing as it is just days be­fore Christ­mas, its her­itage charm in ev­i­dence all year round - but for a qui­eter shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, pick the morn­ing, as the busiest time here is late af­ter­noon. Shops close rel­a­tively early though, at 5.30pm, so the week­ends are also a more peace­ful time. At Christ­mas the Ar­cade feels like win­ter won­der­land, beau­ti­fully lit-up trees line the cov­ered and mar­bled av­enue, while all the shops of­fer their own care­fully-cu­rated take on the fes­tive theme. Run­ning un­til Novem­ber, as part of May­fair Art week­end, French artist Mathilda Nivet has cre­ated a flock of origami pa­per birds that span the ceil­ing of the ar­cade. This is the first time that Nivet has ex­hib­ited in the Ar­cade, and the birds are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of

the peo­ple pass­ing through Lon­don. Nivet – who has de­signed win­dow dis­plays for Her­mès, Bul­gari and Chanel - has hand­made all 300 birds, in var­i­ous stages of flight, and the ef­fects are quite stun­ning, their in­di­vid­ual pa­per feath­ers re-cre­at­ing the nat­u­ral move­ment of birds. When­ever you de­cide to shop here, take the time to make the most of the in­ti­mate, warm at­mos­phere. Stores have cho­sen this lo­ca­tion be­cause of their com­mit­ment to cus­tomer ser­vice and it shows through­out the Ar­cade – from the help­ful Bea­dles at the en­trances to all the shop own­ers and staff, who will want to spend the time help­ing and ad­vis­ing you on pur­chases. They are pas­sion­ate about their brands and will help you have the best pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ence and find some­thing truly unique. They will share ex­actly the process by which the items are made and even the sto­ries be­hind them and the shop.

Pic­tured right; Mathilde Nivet's hand-made flock of origami pa­per birds span the ceil­ing of the Burlington Ar­cade as part of May­fair Art Week­end.

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