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Through the Shop Window

Images of British Shops and Shopping from the RIBA Collections

The Through the Shop Window exhibition featured at Shanghai Fashion Week as fashion and architecture met again this spring, when RIBA architects took over the retail windows in Shanghai’s most famous shopping plaza, Xintiandi Style, and showcased their talents as part of the RIBA Shanghai Windows Project 2015.

Shopping, regarded by many as the nation’s favourite pastime is driven by our desire for ever new, constantly changing fashions and goods. In turn the demands of our shopping habits has led to the rapidly, ever changing architecture and design of shops. By their very nature shop designs and displays tend to be very ephemeral, quickly consigned to history and only recorded for posterity by the photographer’s camera or the architect’s pen.

Through the Shop Window captures the evolution of British shopping trends in the middle of the twentieth century beginning with the stylish glamour of Art Deco, its glitz and chrome a luxurious antidote to the harsh times of the Depression. After the Second World War’s austerity came Modernism, far simpler, yet often extremely elegant with large picture windows rendering the shop fronts almost transparent, their interiors revealed to all. Witness how many of the photographs displayed here were photographed at night emphasizing their theatricality and tempting you to enter. Then finally the vitality of the “Swinging Sixties” with that coolest destination of all, London’s Carnaby Street.

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