In the archive:


We’ve been leafing through our bright-yellow history books to bring you some of our most daring projects to date. With these awe-inspiring projects, the sky really was the limit...

Words: Chekii Harling

The Blériot Monoplane, that crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover, July 25th 1909 / The Blériot Monoplane in Selfridges, public announcement, 1909 / The Blériot Monoplane in Dover, 1909, courtesy of The Selfridges Archive / The Blériot Monoplane, newspaper cutting, courtesy of The Selfridges Archive.


The Blériot Plane XI, 1909


This flight was so big that I had to link it with the store. I saw some sort of omen in it; Blériot and I were changing the world, each in our own way. I had to get that plane.

– Harry Gordon Selfridge (speaking to A.H. Williams, Director of Selfridges at the time)

In 1909 – just one year after the first Selfridges store opened – the original showman of shopping, Harry Gordon Selfridge, decided to place the first aircraft to cross the English Channel on public display in the store. The monoplane, made from poplar wood covered in waterproof linen, was crafted and piloted by Louis Blériot, who flew 23 miles in a speedy 36 minutes and 30 seconds. After travelling across the country on two open railway trucks, the plane arrived at Cannon Street station and was taken to Selfridges, where it was reassembled and exhibited on the shop floor. Over 150,000 inquisitive visitors gathered over the course of four days to view the plane. In return for having the plane on display, Harry Gordon Selfridge gave £200 (the equivalent of £23,963 today) to the London Hospital and insured the plane for £10,000 (around £1,198,150 today) against “fire, death or accident” for the duration of the exhibition. 


“I am always prepared to sell anything, from an aeroplane to a cigarette. As a matter of fact, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be selling Blériot planes in numbers at no distant date. This one may have cost Mr Blériot hundreds – thousands of pounds if we calculate the entire cost of his experiments in serial navigation over the past few years; but the actual cost of the material used in its construction cannot be very much, apart from the engine. In any case, the price, before long, ought not to be beyond the means of anyone with the necessary amount of skill and courage.”

– Harry Gordon Selfridge, The Daily Telegraph


I had to make contact with him (Louis Blériot) to get his machine into my store.

– Harry Gordon Selfridge 
The making of the Yayoi Kusama statue, courtesy of Louis Vuitton / The Yayoi Kusama statue being installed, courtesy of the GGR group, Selfridges 2012 . 


Yayoi Kusama, September 2012

        It was the middle of the night when we were installing the sculpture. I remember a black cabbie stopped and said, ‘Love, isn't it a bit early for Christmas?’ He thought it was Santa…

– Kelly Holdaway (PR and Marketing Coordinator 2015–2016, GGR Group – mini crane suppliers)

It was a moment when three artistic universes became one: Selfridges, Louis Vuitton and the prominent Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. In 2012, we paid homage to Kusama by creating a colossal sculpture of her, which we placed at the front of the store. The statue, which Louis Vuitton designed and made, coincided with the launch of the brand’s exclusive in-store boutique and captivating dotty window displays. The original plan was for the giant figure to be an inflatable, but this was rejected by the local authority who stated it was inappropriate to have a huge blow-up, doll-like figure on the front of the store – “which says more about them than me,” recalls Carlotta Jacoby, our 3-D Creative Manager at the time. In the end, the sculpture, which was 34 feet tall and 500kg, was made from a combination of polystyrene, metal and resin, and covered head to toe in the artist’s signature polka-dot print.

“Working alongside Selfridges on the Yayoi Kusama project was one of the most unusual yet prestigious projects for GGR Group. Our mini cranes are typically used on construction sites, so we get excited when an unusual project like this comes about.” 

– Daniel Ezzatvar  (Marketing Director, GGR group)

      We hope Kusama herself would appreciate that a Japanese-manufactured mini crane with a matching red paint job was used to lift her statue into place at Selfridges!

– Kelly Holdaway (PR and Marketing Coordinator 2015–2016, GGR Group – mini crane suppliers)
Technical drawing of the Rick Owens sculpture, Selfridges, 2014 / Rick Owens sculpted head / Rick Owens sculpted head preparing for installation / Rick Owens sculpted arm and torso / Rick Owens with his supersize sculptural depiction, 2014. 


Rick Owens, August 2014


A moment of absolute giddy shamelessness

– Rick Owens

In the summer of 2014, a giant 25-foot-tall sculpture of American fashion designer Rick Owens adorned the Selfridges storefront. Created in celebration of his 20 years in the fashion industry and designed by figurative sculptor Douglas Jennings, the sculpture was cast from polystyrene and cover in steel, took 12 weeks to create and was inspired by the invitation for one of the designer’s catwalk shows that explored fire. Cue an enormous, unclothed, torch-wielding re-creation of Rick, which had to be airlifted into place by GGR Group’s spider crane. Cameras were installed into the middle of the torch to ensure that wildlife wasn’t nesting inside before its daily ignition. This fiery ritual also made it crucial to choose an anti-flammable material for Rick’s long locks. After weeks of research, the team decided that a fire-retardant nylon – commonly used for parachutes – was the safest way to fashion Rick’s barnet. 

“We took great pleasure helping to install the sculpture alongside the store’s famed clock and historic stone Queen of Time Statue.”

– Daniel Ezzatvar  (Marketing Director, GGR group) 

“In a way, it was quite funny to have a torso with a flaming torch; the porcelain-like fragility combined with the power of fire gave it a heavenly presence. One of my favourite places to view the sculpture was from inside the store, where you could see his face overlooking the Tom Ford collections. The Queen of Time would chime, and the torch would ignite.”

– Carlotta Jacoby (former Selfridges Senior 3-D Creative Manager) 


There was a lot of discussion about what the sculpture’s hair was made of, and there was also doubt as to whether we could actually make his torch shoot flames.

– Michael Ryley (Creative Manager) 
The Land Rover Defender being airlifted, courtesy of Motoring Research / The Defender preparing for lift-off, Selfridges 2018



Land Rover, October 2018


We had been collaborating with Land Rover on this particular model for several months. In early discussions we’d hoped that it would be a shell, but it had to be a fully functioning Land Rover with an engine. We ended up building a huge platform outside the store and lifted it through the [first-floor] windows – job done!”

– Stuart McCafferty (Selfridges Senior Project Manager)  

In true Selfridges fashion, the bigger and more authentic, the better – and our 2018 collaboration with Land Rover was no exception. Not satisfied with merely displaying a shell of the four-wheeled vehicle in our store, we went for a fully functioning, bespoke Land Rover (which took over 930 hours to build). The custom model was created to celebrate two iconic birthdays: Selfridges’ 110 years of trading and Land Rover’s 70th anniversary. The vehicle featured a branded Selfridges-yellow fabric hood and retro-style seats with bespoke stitching and was one of the fastest Land Rover Defender ever assembled, taking just four days to piece together.


Creating a unique Land Rover Defender for Selfridges was a fascinating project for the Bespoke team at Land Rover Classic. Everything from the custom cross-stitched leather to the unique Selfridges hood and Works V8 engine conversion was created at our state-of-the-art Classic Works facility in Coventry. Assembling it in the store itself, while shoppers looked on, was a first for us! The continued popularity of this vehicle, with its ever-changing ‘wardrobe’, is wonderful to see.

– Dan Pink (Director, Classic Works at Jaguar and Land Rover)
The jet pack launch, courtesy of Selfridges /  Richard Browning, the jet pack launch, Selfridges, July 2018


The Jet Suit Man, July 2018


We went to see Richard in Salisbury where he lives. He picked us up from the train station and was flying above the car. When you’re standing next to the suit – which I have been many times – you feel this whoosh of air. Richard is a really inspirational man; he’s an English Tony Stark

– Bosse Myhr (Selfridges Director of Menswear and Womenswear)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Richard Browning zooming past the Selfridges store on a kerosene-fuelled jetpack. Richard’s inspiration to design the flying suit, made from 3-D-printed titanium, was born from a desire to prove the impossible, possible. This caught the attention of Bosse Myhr, our Head Technology Buyer at the time, who wanted to channel the same revolutionary spirit as Harry Gordon Selfridge. The jetpack demo made for quite the spectacle, with the noise from the gas turbines filling the air as Selfridges staff, the international press and nearby office dwellers gathered in amazement at Richard Browning whizzing down Edwards Mews. 

“We launched the suit at the back of Selfridges, which is an unusual place to go flying, but we had a huge crowd of people. It was great fun. Flying is like dreaming of flying as a kid; you feel completely weightless. It is as intuitive as running or walking.”

– Richard Browning (Founder, Gravity) 


“Obviously, with a flying man there are lots of technical things that could go wrong, which Richard assured us wouldn’t happen. Selfridges is known for weird, wonderful and wacky events, but this definitely tops it. It was such a surreal moment.”

 – Grace Burt (Selfridges Events Manager) 


I remember it being truly awe-inspiring, [seeing] him flying up and down the street…. What’s happened since? I haven’t seen Deliveroo using him just yet

– Michael Ryley (Creative Manager) 
The finished Skate Bowl in action / The Skate Bowl being built / The plywood floor of the Skate Bowl, Selfridges 2018 / Technical drawing of the Skate Bowl 


The Bowl, October 2018


Skateboarding is one of the most beautiful, graceful but difficult sports in the world. I love that Selfridges saw the link between high fashion, street culture and skateboarding. I’ve heard that there are a lot of people who have discovered skating through The Bowl at Selfridges. They’ve seen it, got private lessons and become skateboarders. I don’t know many other sports that visitors have connected with by going into Selfridges.

- Phil Young (Project Manager of The Bowl) 

Creative consultant and avid skateboarder Phil Young joined forces with us and design consultancy Brinkworth to create our in-store skate bowl, which remains a permanent fixture in our menswear department. The team crafted a lip around the wooden bowl using Perspex to create the illusion for passers-by that skaters were riding off the edge of the store. No one had used Perspex in skateboarding structures since 1978, but the team managed to track down a specialist in the UK for the right material. Shaun Scarfe and his construction team at Four One Four tested the Perspex out at Adrenaline Alley, an indoor urban centre, by “riding the hell out of it”. After multiple sleepless nights, piecing together the wooden jigsaw puzzle, the team completed a structure destined to go down in skateboarding history, where both beginners and professionals can ride in the Selfridges store. 

“The outside of the bowl is as sexy as the inside; so much love went into the honeycomb design. The idea was to create as many surfaces as possible to ride off. It was listed as one of the top 10 iconic skate constructions in history – and it is! There isn’t another one like it – I should know, I’ve curved around the whole world.”

– Adam Brinkworth (Founder, Brinkworth) 


Phil and I decided to make it out of plywood because the material is ethical, and it performs really well. Our idea of luxury was about the craft and the precision of the manufacturing, not the ostentatious use of materials. We could’ve made it out of gold, but that would’ve been inappropriate; luxury isn’t about showing off wealth anymore

– Adam Brinkworth (Founder, Brinkworth) 
Damien Hirsts’ Pegasus, installed in The Brasserie of Light, Selfridges 2018, photographed by Andrew Meredith 2


Pegasus, October 2018


I love the myth of Pegasus. This is such an exciting project and I love the scale of it. I hope it’s going to look like something beautiful from another world

- Damien Hirst

To mark the opening of our chic Art Deco-inspired restaurant, Brasserie of Light, we asked artist Damien Hirst to design a show-stopping sculpture of a mythical winged horse, based on the Greek legend of Pegasus. Designed to symbolise light, make-believe and dreams, the dazzling, 24-foot-tall, Swarovski-crystal-encrusted Pegasus is Hirst’s largest work installed in London to date. Rumour has it that parts of the horse’s anatomy were considered too big, so the Pegasus had to be castrated for fear that it might put restaurant goers off their dining experience.

“On the night, we realised that the Pegasus sculpture was going to be too big to get into the building. We didn’t quite get the window back in the following morning, but the horse was assembled in a couple of hours with its body and wings in three parts.”

– Stuart McCafferty (Senior Project Manager) 


When you think of the capital city of the world, you think of London. When you think of London, you think of Selfridges. In the future, when you think of London restaurants, I hope you will think of Brasserie of Light.

– Richard Caring (Owner, The Ivy Collection) 

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