See yourself in a different light

Pennie Varvarides tries on John Lewis’s new LED fitting room lighting for size

When buying clothes, you want to find the perfect outfit – be it an evening gown or casual attire. Ideally you need to know how your evening wear is going to look in the evening and how your work clothes will look at work, which isn’t necessarily the same as the way they looked in the shop.

In fact, most changing rooms have a single downlight in the middle of the ceiling that casts ugly shadows and is singularly ineffective when it comes to rendering colours accurately. This is not ideal if you’re about to shell out for the perfect outfit for a big occasion.

The right impression

John Lewis is determined to change this. The department store chain is running a trial at its flagship Oxford Street branch in a changing room dedicated to men’s bespoke suits. Tailor-made suits aren’t cheap, and John Lewis wants the lighting to give customers an accurate impression of the clothing.

Barry Ayling, lighting design manager at John Lewis, says: ‘I wanted to enhance the John Lewis offer in our changing rooms. A refurbishment project was available to support our men’s bespoke tailoring, and that offered the perfect opportunity to test out new lighting.’

John Lewis is hoping that giving its customers the ability to see their suits under different lighting conditions will ensure they get what they came for and reduce the number of returns.

The changing room (modelled here by Osram’s Tim Higgs) has been fitted with Lunis Q LED downlighters from Osram subsidiary Siteco. The colour temperature of the light sources can be changed so customers can view their outfits in four different settings: normal shop lighting (3000K), evening (2700K and dimmed a little), office (4000K) and daylight (6500K).

Ayling also wanted to tackle the problem of heat generated by the MR16 halogen lamps that are typically used for changing room lighting. He hopes the LEDs will eliminate the problem and make the fitting room experience more enjoyable.

‘The lighting design also saves energy,’ he explains. ‘Our existing system uses two mirror lights rated at 20W each and a 32W downlight – a total of 72W. The new LED lighting uses 36W, so we’ve effectively halved the load.’

Approachable cubicle

The lighting scheme will also be fitted with an occupancy detector, and will be dimmed to 10 per cent output when the changing room is unoccupied Ayling wanted some light to remain so the cubicle always looks approachable from the outside.

John Lewis has 36 stores in the UK, and Ayling says: ‘This new lighting could become a John Lewis standard for changing rooms, and that would further differentiate our offer and service to our customers from those of our competitors.’

Dressed for success

When Lux set out to discover the best and worst of shop fitting room lighting last year, we were faced more often than not with the dark shadows caused by the dreary single downlighter that so many retailers are still attached to.

Fitting room lighting really deserves more thought than this. You don’t need to go as far as scene setting (though it helps) but there are other options available to improve the space.

Something as simple as lighting from the front and sides can eliminate those ugly shadows as well as smoothing the contours of a person’s face, making people look and feel more attractive. At John Lewis, the three downlights work together with the mirrors to provide light from all sides.

● For more on changing room lighting, read our feature from September 2011 online.

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