Why Harvey Nichols smashed store windows for a female empowerment campaign

A group of gender equality champions including Dr Helen Pankhurst smashed windows at Harvey Nichols on Thursday as a symbol of how far women still have to go to fight for their rights.

The event was part of Harvey Nichols’ month-long female empowerment campaign, "Let’s hear it for the girls," created by TBWA\London. The retailer kicked off the campaign at the beginning of September by temporarily rebranding to Holly Nichols, which received some backlash for dropping the name of the company's co-founder Anne Harvey.

The second instalment of the campaign was inspired by a real historical link between Harvey Nichols and the suffragette movement. In 1912, a group of suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst smashed shop windows across London’s West End, including eight belonging to Harvey Nichols. TBWA came up with the idea to recreate this moment to call attention to the work that still needs to be done in achieving full equality for women.

On the eve of London Fashion Week, onlookers gathered at the front of Harvey Nichols’ flagship store in Knightsbridge to watch a group of women take up hammers and crowbars to smash two windows. 

The women included Dr Helen Pankhurst, author and great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst; journalist and TV presenter Anita Rani; racing driver Jamie Chadwick; blogger and author Chidera Eggerue; Kesang Ball, tech entrepreneur and member of the Pxssy Palace Collective; Anna Jones, entrepreneur and co-founder of The AllBright Members Club; author and former nurse Christie Watson; and Jayshree Jogia, a long-serving female staff member at Harvey Nichols.

The window smashing was also part of the Mayor of London and British Fashion Council’s #BehindEveryGreatCity initiative, which saw Harrods and Fortnum & Mason dedicating windows to the campaign and suffragettes. 

Deborah Bee, the group marketing and creative director of Harvey Nichols, acknowledged co-founder Anne Harvey's key role in the company’s history and said the campaign was meant to celebrate all women.

Brands must reflect the principles of the people around them and be authentic, she added.

"It’s actually about deeds not words," she said, quoting Emmeline Pankhurst. "If you want a customer to come to your store, you really do have to genuinely want to do good things."

Pankhurst pointed out that branding has always played a significant role in the women’s rights movement. "The PR, the cleverness, the merchandising, all of that was very much at the centre of women’s rights campaigning," she said.

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