Victoria Gate & John Lewis: First Look. Leeds’ shopping scene is about to get a serious upgrade.

Here at House of Coco, we love our retail therapy. Whether it’s in London, Paris or Milan, we know the importance of beautiful arcades and eclectic design. However, you don’t always need to get on a plane to get the same experience. With Leeds now within the top three shopping destinations in the UK, it’s no surprise that investment from world renowned retailers just keeps on coming. We sent our writer Jenna Clarke to get a sneak peak at the brand new John Lewis store & also a behind the scenes tour of the new Victoria Gate development….

“When the opportunity came up to be one of the first few people to set my eyes on the new Victoria Gate X John Lewis development, I jumped at the chance. As an admirer of modern architecture, I’ve been walking past this soon to be ex-building site looking up at the five floors, in absolute awe. With triangular bespoke windows on every floor letting the light flood in & a handcrafted twisted steel covering to the enormous multi-storey parking area, it’s an absolute treat for the eyes.

IMG_4122Some of the locals may say it’s too modern, but in my opinion, it’s come at the perfect time for Leeds. The neutral colouring of the development means it nestles into the ever emerging skyline and there’s always going to be room for more shops in Leeds. This is John Lewis’s 47th store and admittedly, their most modern. Slipping on my high-vis jacket & very endearing hard hat & workers boots I went through security and stepped onto the shop floor. It’s amazing how quickly this development has come together with work beginning only two years ago to turn the old police station, into a shoppers paradise.

It’s light, it’s spacious & it’s inspired. The team who have curated everything about this building from architecture, shoppers experience & initial design concept talked us through the many new features of their first ever five-storey store. On each floor was a different surprise and if i’m honest, its going to be a theme park for the shopaholic. I can already see my bank account crying. As I am a huge fan of anything hair and beauty related, I rejoiced at the unveiling of ‘& Beauty’ a concept only in one other John Lewis store. In short, it’s a massive salon & day spa right amongst it all. Boyfriend stuck downstairs trying to figure out which TV to buy? No worries, pop upstairs for an express blow-dry, manicure or even slip into one of their spa rooms and forget you’re in Leeds City Centre. Massage, coffee & buy a new outfit in your lunch break? It’s possible.

Speaking of Coffee, there’s no tired M&S Cafe here, rethink everything you know about in-store coffee shops. The brand new John Lewis Coffee Experience will revolutionise the way you rest your legs after a spree around the store. I’m not going to give much a way, but coffee lovers rejoice! Sorry Starbucks, I still love you.

What I love about John Lewis as a brand is that they’re great at moving with the times. Yes, they keep their heritage with Haberdashery & Fabrics being a huge part of their offering, but it never really feels ‘dated’. With clothing ranges aimed at the fashion conscious young professional, Modern Rarity is a personal favourite. Think HotMess Clothing meets French Connection & maybe a dash of Zara. Their debut AW16 collection comprises of 90 items in a palette of soft, earthy tones. It is literally GORGEOUS. The whole range is designed for layering and creating beautiful silhouettes. Another interesting concept being unveiled is the Lost & Found collection, especially curated to feature a range of designers from around the UK. Love boutique stores? This concept will be right up your street.

This store has been designed for the modern individual with eye-catching design features meaning at every turn – there’s something new to see. Walls have been created on a slight slant with modern design to get away from the ‘boxy’ feel that some department stores can have. I’m really sorry House of Fraser & Harvey Nics, you may of met your match.

All of this paired with everything you love about John Lewis already – homewares, kitchens, fitting bedrooms, electronics, menswear etc and some fantastic restaurants (WATCH THIS SPACE!) you’ll wonder how you ever coped without it.

It’s not just John Lewis that is stepping onto the scene, albeit the biggest development. Victoria Gate itself is a maze of architectural design and beautiful glass. Stepping in I was amazed at the sheer amount of detail that goes into something like this. Everything from the customer journey from the original Victoria Quarter up to Victoria Gate, to the rebrand of the Northern Quarter (I live there – it really needs it!) to ‘Victoria’ and road surfaces becoming at one with the building, it really is breathtaking.IMG_4136

From the brains behind VQ, the luxury feel is 100x what Leeds has scene before. Everything from the gorgeous light tunnels going up through every floor, to the hand placed granite floor tiles. The architect joked saying how they wanted to do ‘fifty shades of grey’ but realised fifteen shades was probably enough. Victoria Gate doesn’t give too much away as of yet, but you can expect the following….

  • Enormous restaurant developments including roof terraces, balcony seating & a concept that has never before been seen in Leeds.
  • An extensive Casino including restaurants, bars & live music right above the arcade.
  • Countless new concepts by some of the worlds most renowned brands. Psssttt….some of your VQ favourites are getting a two-storey upgrade in the new development.
  • Black glass fronted stores that provide gallery-style merchandising and a completely new shopping experience.

I did get some insider information on the brands and concepts going in, but i’m going to keep that bit secret for now until the launch. Nobody likes to spoil a surprise do they? All I can say is that it is going to be STUNNING & popping to town in your trainers isn’t going to necessarily be an option anymore. The fashion elite are on their way this autumn and it’s going to be fabulous.”


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