Julietta Jameson visits London's amazing new, technology-driven Burberry flagship store.
Sensible people don't compare themselves with catwalk models. Right now, I am not being a sensible person. On a couple of counts. For one, over my arm I have a coat I seriously can't afford and, two, I am entering a change room that will have a catwalk model in it with me.
Well, a virtual model, but all the same, this can't be sensible behaviour. Nonetheless, I slip on the fabulous trench coat, and - goodness, it's gorgeous - am admiring myself in it, when the chip embedded in it causes the mirror to turn into a screen, showing the same coat on some gorgeous freak of nature parading down a runway.
Amazingly, the exercise proves not even the slightest bit depressing. In fact, it's sort of inspiring. I see the coat as it should be worn, at the right length, with the right accessories, and I'm encouraged rather than devastated. It's all very clever.
But that's life inside the Burberry flagship store, an aspirational cocoon of quiet glamour and cutting-edge technology that is very clever indeed. The creation of Christopher Bailey, the man credited with turning this once-lagging British brand into the awesomely successful icon it is today, the 2500-square-metre Burberry global HQ is housed in a nigh-on 200-year-old building at the corner of Vigo and Regent streets, London.
Burberry and Regent Street have a bit in common. Each came into being in early-1800s London and since then has had ups and downs and ins and outs - of fashion, specifically. Both enjoyed success, fell out of favour, were overhauled, fell out of favour again, underwent another overhaul and are again enormously successful.
It's fitting, then, that they're now hand in glove -Burberry's 121 Regent Street store, right in the epicentre of the revitalised boulevard's beauty and bustle, takes its place among some extraordinary, exquisite - and equally enormous - shops, such as the Apple Store (one of the biggest in the world), Anthropologie (one of only two of the vintage-inspired fashion and home wares concept stores in Europe), Hermes and the iconic Liberty of London, selling Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith and others.
Burberry is a standout, though. It's vanguard retail.
Bailey's stated objective of creating a physical replica of the Burberry website sounds quite a bit like PR spin but the experience in-store proves a lot more than that.
Recognising the growing importance of online shopping and the expectations it fosters for things such as speed of service, elegant interfaces and lots of lovely collateral diversions, the Burberry in-store encounter is supported by technology galore.
It includes such details as small, hidden high-speed lifts for whizzing stock quickly to short-attention-span-generation customers, kilometres of computer cabling (a lot of it in preparation for future technology), 420 concealed speakers, a hydraulic stage for live gigs and a 38-square-metre screen that dominates the main hall and shows on-message video, which ranges from live streams of Burberry catwalk shows to music videos, to beautiful, atmospheric short films, some depicting nothing but weather.
While I'm in the store, a movie of a rain shower plays, its pitter-patter soundtrack broadcast on those 420 crystal-clarity speakers.
"Burberry was born out of the trench coat, which is all about the weather. It's a national obsession, and I love to celebrate that," Bailey explained to a journalist.
That video is lovely but it doesn't make me buy the coat. It does, however help make for a wonderful, one-of-a-kind retail adventure.
Julietta Jameson was a guest of Qantas, Accor Hotels and Visit Britain.
Qantas flies to London Heathrow daily, starting from about $2000 return. qantas.com.au.
The Pullman St Pancras is conveniently located for easy access to lots of London's highlights. Just across the road from Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, it's only two stops to Oxford Circus (Victoria line) and three to Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly line) for Regent Street shopping. Rooms from about $215 a night. Pullman St Pancras; 100-110 Euston Road, NW1; pullmanhotels.com.
Burberry; 121 Regent Street, London; +44 207 806 8904; burberry.com.