Multihyphenate designer Tom Dixon’s newest manifestation, Multiplex, is a pop-up shop on steroids. The retail concept, which runs through October 18, occupies 25,000 square feet at The Old Selfridges Hotel in London, and is a bridge between the city’s packed schedule of autumnal events: London Fashion Week, the London Design Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and Frieze London. As Dixon puts it, "The name ‘Multiplex,’ which is stolen from split-screen cinema, is really about addressing different audiences, using the department format to stretch a bit the dates—from Fashion Week all the way to Frieze—but also going beyond the people we’d normally address."
Situated in an industrial (there’s no plumbing) spot adjacent to the famous Selfridges department store, the concept brings together home, jewelry, technology, fashion and beauty departments, as well as a food hall. A partnership between Tom Dixon and Wallpaper*, the store is anchored by Dixon's accessories, furniture and lighting in its center. It’s a multisensory experience: Obataimu, a Mumbai-based boutique, makes custom clothes "live," via a televised production studio displayed on screens on-site; Haeckels, a skincare brand, hosts guests in a "scented mist room," a giant bubble-like space infused with natural botanicals native to the British coast; along with other "tenants" including Sony, with a theater space, Cubitts, a custom eyeglasses company, and Deliveroo, a digital service which oversees take-in food orders for 40 different area restaurants for guests to indulge in on-site. “Interior design really isn’t only about furniture, lighting and accessories,” explains Dixon of the intended diversity. “It’s about providing environments for people to live and work, and enjoy other things. This is about having a richer, deeper, more complex, more enjoyable life for us as a label.”
The store is a departure from the typical interiors showroom. Events, including a concert with Dixon, an avid musician, himself, as well as design talks and even app-building demos, have been on the docket since the store's opening. “We spend a lot of time preaching to the converted. We’ll do design events for designer people about stuff they know about, because they’ve heard about it in Milan [or elsewhere]” Dixon explains. “But Multiplex is an attempt to start overlaying what we do with other things that we’re interested in, and other trades that are complementary.”
A number of new furniture pieces, premiered to the trade at Maison & Objet a few weeks prior, debuted for the first time to the consumer at Multiplex. Is there an ideal customer? No, says Dixon. “A lot of businesses indulge in customer segmentation and describing their perfect customer. We think, ‘We are the customer.’ We’re a design company, and we have an interior design company. So often we’re literally our [own] customers. The people we sell to and the people we know and the people who write about us: that’s our customer. It’s you as well as me.”
The reimagination of the Selfridges hotel space, which was considered (and later abandoned) for an Eataly outpost and has also been transformed for events by Tiffany & Co. and other companies, was “thrown together” in about eight weeks. A prior incarnation of the project—a drive-in parking lot that would’ve only spotlighted Tom Dixon products—fell through. The participating companies and floor plan were in flux until the “very last minute,” as a number had to drop out because they couldn’t conform to certain commercial or safety codes. “There’s something quite nice about the urgency of it, the temporary nature of it, which works particularly well in the context of sitting inside Selfridges. It’s so slick, upmarket and busy over there, and this is kind of a little bit of a Berlin or East London in the middle of the West End, which I find appealing,” Dixon says.
Dixon has been offered opportunities to bring the concept to Australia, Canada and China, but he’s currently focused “from a design perspective on 2017. I’m already in the year after next.” Other plans in the works include a partnership with a fashion company in Culver City, and a small, newly opened outpost on Center Street in New York. The brand has also made a recent foray into scented candles. He overcame his initial skepticism in the doing, he says. “Designing through your nose and not through your eyes, suddenly you have another universe there that you never knew existed. It made me think again, just as I am here [at Multiplex], about how you get put into boxes, and how you just live in those boxes,” he explains. “The really interesting stuff happens in the spaces in between your business and somebody else’s business."