As every fashionista knows, you have to work hard to stay ahead of the game if you always want to be seen wearing the best-dressed outfit in town.
And so Selfridges’ world-famous exterior is set to disappear for more than a year while restoration work takes place ready to make the Bullring shopping centre’s star attraction look like new again.
Scaffolders have arrived next to the Park Street entrance ready to coat the building in protective poles and boards.
That installation will be a work of art in its own right given the bulbous nature of the iconic landmark overlooking Moor Street Station.
Their new frame will then be covered with its new outfit – an eye-catching pink and black jigsaw-style hoarding called ‘Dogtooth Flower’.
It has been created by local fashion designer Osman Yousefzada in partnership with the city’s Ikon Gallery.
The son of a dressmaking mother who moved from Afghanistan to Balsall Heath in the 1970s, his outfits have been worn by stars including Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Rita Ora and Beyonce since Thandie Newton became his first celebrity client.
Mr Yousefzadam, who left Birmingham aged 18 and was in his early 30s when he made his debut at London Fashion Week in 2008, said: “I feel very lucky to have been selected from a shortlist of acclaimed international artists asked to design the scaffolding wrap.
“As an artist and designer, whose clothes have been stocked at Selfridges since my first collection, it is amazing to think I will be dressing Selfridges itself.
“This will be my first piece of public art and to be able to do it on such a scale is truly exciting. I can’t wait to see it completed.”
What is happening?
The redevelopment is beginning barely five years after the nearby Grand Central shopping centre stopped being a six-year building site when it opened to the public on September 24, 2015.
And just four months after John Lewis said it was pulling out of its flagship Grand Central store, never to return.
Selfridges itself was only opened on September 4, 2003 – meaning its current exterior is being totally refurbished after less than 20 years in operation.
All of the building’s silver discs will be removed before the exterior ‘skin’ is repainted in its original Yves Klein blue colour before the disks are then reattached.
Selfridges will be able to trade throughout, although there may be some local disruptions to traffic.
It is hoped that the exterior will be finished before the international spotlight falls on the city during the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The work is being carried out by Hammerson which co-owns and manages Bullring.
In September, portfolio director Conrad Baconfor said: “We are proud the Selfridges building has gained icon status for its design.
“We want to ensure it maintains its pride of place both in Birmingham and the UK.
“The design and construction of the building means we have made the decision to undertake these upgrade works now to ensure the building’s long-term future while improving its environmental performance.”
Once the building has been thoroughly spruced up it will no doubt look amazing again.
Although Selfridges is cleaned regularly on the outside by a team of abseilers, BirminghamLive reported two years ago how some 20 of the 15,000 discs were missing
We noted how the exterior was the kind of building where only perfection would do.
Instead of appearing to be flawless, it was starting to look pockmarked.
At the time of its construction, it was reported the discs ‘should have a lifespan of 30 years before any maintenance is required’.
They have now been in position for just 17 years.
The city engineering company which made the discs went into administration in March, 2009 before being dissolved in 2011.
The discs were made by a metal-forming specialist based called Purdie Elcock which had sites in Newtown and West Bromwich.
It took eight months to produce 15,000 discs at its Frankfort Street works in Newtown for the wave-shaped store.
They were then sent off to two other companies to be anodised and polished – L B Parkes of Walsall and Eurotech at Wednesbury.
The contract was worth about £150,000 compared with around £500,000 if the architects, James & Taylor, had not provided the materials themselves.
As a specialist in spinning metal components, Purdie Elcock was also able to make the discs cheaper than if they had been pressed.
Two years ago BirminghamLive asked another company for a quote in order to resurface the building.
Spintec Metal Spinning Ltd, based on the Spartan Industrial Estate in West Bromwich was founded in 2010 by John Nicklin, a craftsman who had helped to spin the original discs while working at Purdie Elcock.
A spokesman said: “To make new discs for Selfridges would cost at least £3,000 for the machine tool – which could last for 20 years if it was hardened.
“After that it might cost £50 per disc (which would be £750,000 for 15,000).”
As ever, Birmingham continues to move ‘Forward’ in line with its 1830s’ motto.
The work to recoat Selfridges means the return of a vast amount of scaffolding to Moor Street Queensway barely 18 months after the last frame came down prior to the world’s biggest Primark opening next door on April 11, 2019.
The work also means that the eastern end of the Grand Central / Bullring complex looks set to resemble yet another city building site for more than a year – albeit a jazzy one thanks to Osman’s startling coating.
The whole Eastside area is already undergoing a vast reimagining, with HS2 completely reinventing the area off New Canal Street and Curzon Street.
Work is also due to begin soon to build another extension of the West Midlands Metro that will see the line from Snow Hill come down lower Bull Street and through what is currently the McDonald’s in Dale End.
Meanwhile, the whole of Colmore Row is being redeveloped as well as Victoria Square and it will be the middle of 2021 before the new 103 Colmore Row tower block is finished.
Beyond Chamberlain Square, Paradise is barely half way through its decade-long £700 million regeneration and there’s still a long to go before Arena Central is completed next to Bridge Street.
Although good progress is still being made by the Midland Metro Alliance on Broad Street, it is set to be another year before the West Midlands Metro tram will finally be operating services from Centenary Square to the other side of Five Ways at 54 Hagley Road.
Meanwhile work continues to build the giant Moda Living Tower there.
Over in Southside, the huge Timber Yard apartment block is still under construction off Pershore Street, with five more developments now under way off Kent Street.
The vast area between Bristol Street and Sherlock Street is also being redeveloped following the demolition of Monaco House.