“Here I am,” declared John James ‘Jim’ Fenwick when he first stepped through the doors of the Bond Street store in 1891. The words may have been simple; his concept was anything but - this was one of the first department stores to be seen outside of Paris, the windows filled with spectacular displays designed to entice the glamorous ladies of London through its doors.
Andrei Robu: Fenwick Bond Street's latest collaboration
Image: Typographer Andrei Robu who created the new 'Here I Am' logo for Fenwick Bond Street
Fenwick has been inspired by Jim’s words for more than a century, and capturing them in an image is now the job of leading typographer, Andrei Robu, who has worked with a number of leading brands, from Nike Jordan to The 69th Golden Globes. It continues a proud tradition – begun by Jim Fenwick - of collaborating with cool new artists of the day, and has inspired a number of unexpected collaborations in Fenwick’s products, events, services and windows.
David Walker Smith, managing director, of Fenwick of Bond Street, says: “As the world becomes a smaller place, both Londoners and our Bond Street audience look to Fenwick of Bond Street to not only innovate, to ensure we remain fresh and relevant, but also to curate a different story which we hope we have achieved through 'Here I Am'. We hope the power of these words will inspire customers today.”
We caught up with Robu to talk to him about the first in his series of art installations in a year-long campaign in the store, and being part of the next step in its history.
What is a typographer?
It’s a good question as there has been a lot of discussion in blogs recently. A typographer is someone who designs with fonts, they take the existing font and create an image with it. A letterer is a designer who draws the actual type. I am both. For Fenwick everything is hand-drawn and original.
Why do you think we are captivated by giving an image to our words, especially on Instagram?
We are all trying to be unique in some way. If you can give an image to your words it’s easier to convey them. You can feel you are saying the right thing if it looks like the way you are thinking.
What did you want to convey with the ‘Here I Am’ graphic?
I wanted to create a bold logo that was very striking – to match the founder’s simple yet powerful words. I wanted to incorporate the fashion element in the bright colours and flowers – all the big brands are using floral motifs so I wanted to tie into that – and make it contemporary, uplifting and fun but also to incorporate the heritage, that is from the type itself, the way it is drawn. It’s a reference to the old Fenwick sign that was on top of the store. If you studied the way logos were drawn from that time period you will find this is the style they used.
What inspired you about the Jim Fenwick story?
I was impressed that the founder went to study the window design in Paris and was the first to bring that concept to London. That was a groundbreaking idea to use the windows as a medium to make customers stop and look and entice them into the shop. It's why the ‘Here I am’ message is spot on, to create a campaign that encapsulates everything the store wants to say - a strategy used by Mr Fenwick 100 years ago. Ultimately, it’s a reminder never to be afraid to say what you think, eliminate distractions and simplify.
How did you get into typography?
I grew up in Romania. I was 12 or 13 years old, maybe younger, the country was still under Communist rule but my father was an officer in the commercial navy so he had access to overseas shops. I asked him to buy me some hip-hop tapes. I would listen to the music and copy the graffiti and the names of the bands on the covers. After that I discovered some old French hip-hop magazines - at the back were pictures of walls with graffiti. I was amazed by the way the letters flowed, the colours, it was mind-blowing for me and I started doing my own. I drew at home, in school and painted on the walls in the city.
How else did you express your art?
During high school I was a tattooist. I drew the designs and had the machine to do the tattoos. It was for maybe three or four years, it looks easy but it’s very hard. Then at my first year at university I gave it up and concentrated on digital design.
What was your first big project?
Actually I got quite lucky. In my first year of university I started designing for The Coca-Cola Company, creating online campaigns for brands like Fanta and Sprite. After ten years, I was fortunate to work with many big brands such as Nike Jordan, Bloomberg and The Golden Globes, but I also designed for smaller brands and helped their businesses to grow.
What do you love about typography?
I fell in love with typography through graffiti, which led me to graphic design. For each project I get to do up to a hundred sketches. I love the search for the perfect balance. The sound of your pencil on paper: you go into your own world.
Do you have beautiful handwriting?
No, and especially not in school! If I want to write nicely I can, but my actual handwriting is not that nice.
I've been experimenting a lot between painting and calligraphy. I'd love to see my art applied more into the fashion world.
Click HERE to read more of the Fenwick story.
By Claire Brayford