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Umdasch – Marking a Milestone

Champagne maker Moët & Chandon has opened its first permanent space in Europe within the beauty halls on the ground floor of London department store Harrods. In this article, RLI sits down with Roman Fussthaler, Managing Director Premium Retail, Simon Wait, Project Director at umdasch The Store Makers and Simon Mitchell, Co-Founder of Sybarite studio to discuss the flagship project.

The execution of the dramatic Moët & Chandon bar is a major milestone for umdasch in the 10-year grand renovation process of the world-famous Harrods in Knightsbridge, London. Manufactured and installed by umdasch The Store Makers to a design by architectural studio Sybarite, the Moët & Chandon Champagne Bar at Harrods is a contemporary take on the heritage of the Maison.

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Of course, Harrods has had places for a glass of ice cold bubbly before. But nothing of this ambition, with the 125sq m ground floor bar, which opened on 7 July 2022, sat amid designer brands in its beauty hall and facing out onto Basil Street, where many a well-heeled shopper dines al fresco or gets dropped off and picked up in luxury limos and supercars.

The star of the show is an organic, hand-sculpted chandelier – made of nearly 60,000 dégradé golden disks and 240,000 brass rings – which sweeps over a curving 34-seat bar and visually connects the bar area with its environs. Four poser tables in each corner of the space complete the seating, while Moët & Chandon branding and bubble graphics in the window define the exterior view and make it a place to see and be seen.

The chandelier is without doubt the centrepiece of the design. Inspired by the idea of the effervescence and pleasure of the ‘Champagne pop’, the hand-crafted 21 x 5 metre chandelier sweeps through the space, with two different finishes concentrating on gold ombre disks at its centre and then subtly fading into silver towards the edges and including mirror polished stainless steel, brushed and polished brass.

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All images are of Moët & Chandon, Harrods, London, UK
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Sybarite, Photography by Rupert Peace

Not that creating such a large and sinuous structure was easy. “The design involved a lot of prototyping, testing and testing again,” says umdasch Project Director Simon Wait. “Also spotlights and sprinkler heads had to be allowed for following the organic shape. The lighting within the chandelier offers a number of pre-set scenes for the time of day and ambience.”

Simon Mitchell, Co-Founder of Sybarite studio, adds: “No matter how hard you can plot in three dimensions the chandelier and the weight of each of the disks, it behaved in completely different ways and so we had to tame the beast. It took six weeks to tame it with necessary design adjustments whilst in situ.”

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Below, the bar offers a full selection of Moët & Chandon wines, served by the glass, bottle or magnums, plus an extensive range of savoury and sweet light eating options created by Harrods’ specialist team of in-house chefs, from fresh seafood to finger sandwiches and pastries.

The colour palette and contours of the organic bar takes its inspiration from the colours and topography of the Epernay Champagne region, manufactured in glass fibre with a textured application, a brushed brass bullnose curving around the whole bar completed by a chalk-like texture beneath the glass.

The counter is studded with eight red “Moët Kisses” installed within the solid surface that house the brushed brass ice buckets. The bar includes a fully fitted kitchen for the preparation of food and drink. Waiter stations in aged brass are echoed in new store fixture designs for the adjacent concessions so that the two zones blend seamlessly.

The tops of the poser tables are made from resin, each designed with a three-dimensional aesthetic which replicates the impression of looking down into a glass of Moët & Chandon, with the ‘bubbles’ rising towards the customer. The window design provides full visibility, so that passers-by feel the scale of the chandelier but Moet also wanted to create a little privacy for people sitting in the window and opted for a bubbles design plus some branding across the three prominent windows. The vinyls will change, so there will be a different graphic for the Christmas period and different visual merchandising on a three to four month cycle.

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“What we tried to do is all about design coding that is representative of the brand DNA so that we hope that the customer engages with some form of emotional appreciation,” says Mitchell. “They may not get all of the design codes that we weaved into it, some are really subliminal and some are more obvious. But it’s all about if that customer just picks up on one thing, the terroir or the chalk or the party. If you can do that in design, especially in retail, the customer will keep coming back.”

There are four colours of corporate identity under the LVMH umbrella: red, gold, white and black, and Sybarite came up with ‘four Ps’ – the first P is pleasure, about that moment, the pop of the champagne, the ‘beating heart’. The second P is about the prestige and French elegance. The third P is place, grounded in the land and the soils and layering of chalks and clays and the final P is philosophy, which is about the kind of heritage.

Mitchell adds: “From that we were able to build those four distinct design codes within the design for the bar, which echoes the contours, the terroir. And it’s layered so that you’ve got the clay, surrounding the base and you’ve got the chalk contours within the base surface. So there’s already this theatre and there’s also this kind of party bringing people together. Obviously the grand gesture is the 21-metre chandelier. That’s the wow moment.”

“It has been a super-challenging project because of the complexity of delivering the organic, sinuous shape of the chandelier and bar using the premium materials specified,” said Wait. “The bar was manufactured in twelve sections and fitted together on site, the pieces were then jointed, filled and refinished in situ to give the appearance of the bar being made from one piece.”

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The long-standing relationship between umdasch and Harrods is emblematic of the deep heritage that the two businesses have within retailing. From luxury merchandise to gifts, Harrods and umdasch have collaborated in a long-term, phased project to rejuvenate key elements of the store, starting with the successful renovation of Harrods Roastery & Bake Hall in 2017 and Harrods Wine & Spirits in 2018.

Subsequently, umdasch was commissioned for many projects as part of a ten-year grand renovation, including the Dining Hall, Men’s International Designer Room 1, Beds, Signature Harrods World as well as the Gift Wrap area, Men’s Shoes or Seasonal & Books.

“Harrods Moët & Chandon Bar is our flagship project this year, given the uniqueness of the design and various high-profile stakeholders being involved in this project. The team is immensely proud to have been entrusted with this prestigious space,” notes Roman Fussthaler, Managing Director Premium Retail.