When you walk into a fashion store, your mind should focus on all the wonderful things you can buy. A customer walking out with at least one shopping bag is the sign of a successful sale and a happy retailer. When you set foot into a beautifully decorated home or the lobby of a luxury hotel, an underlying feeling of pampering sneaks into your soul, and you suddenly find it difficult to leave.
Interior Design and Fashion Retail
So it’s no wonder that fashion and interior designers team up with artful architects in order to create the perfect retail space: uniquely stylish and inviting, but with a focus on the items being sold. In this case, the challenge lies in creating a beautiful space without distracting your customer from a potential sale. Making a visual statement that doesn’t steal the spotlight from the actual fashion design is something that many retailers have gotten wrong throughout the years.
But in this decade, balance seems to have been achieved in the UK, and particularly in London, the city that once again defends its place amongst the world’s fashion capitals.
London is a multicultural capital, and thus the home to many fashion retailers from all continents. The dazzling array of garments spreads across fine independent boutiques, bold flagship stores and impressive shopping centres. Places like Soho and Dover Street Market – recently relocated- have become Meccas for the city’s fashionistas, a haven for the lovers of high-end apparel. The demographic is more varied as well – both ladies and gents enjoy their shopping and sporting the new trends just yesterday revealed on the runways. The electrifying vibe of Pret-a-Porter consumerism has made the fashion retail market an incredibly competitive one. And so, the genius of a great architect and the brilliance of an interior designer are now required in order to define a fabulous retail spot.
Over the past couple of years, a substantial number of high-end fashion stores have taken internationally acclaimed architects on board for their new flagship stores and boutique makeovers. A great example was the stunning collaboration between Miuccia Prada, the force behind Prada and Miu Miu, and Rem Koolhaas, a Dutch visionary and currently a Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Harvard University. The Prada Epicenter in London was a challenge against the brand safety of its globally recognised Green Store. It reinvented the vision and the manner of displaying Prada’s new line, stepping away from the dull neutrality that virtually forced your focus onto their clothes, and getting closer to multimedia and content elements that made your shopping experience unique altogether. But then Miuccia took a step further and ignited the Iconoclasts Project, bringing cinematic art into its 2015 Spring/Summer collection – in her vision, fashion tells a story, just like movies, and so it just made sense to bring the two together for a different yet exhilarating experience.
Victoria Beckham had solicited the services of Farshid Moussavi, another brilliant mind of contemporary architecture and a Professor of Practice in Architecture at Harvard University, to convert the Georgian building on Dover Street into a splendid flagship store for her fashion brand. By using lightweight concrete flooring, intelligent lighting and neutral yet sleek lines, the world-renowned architect managed to immerse customers into a visual ambient experience and direct their focus towards the three levels of stylish merchandise.
Hedi Slimane, former creative director of Yves Saint Laurent, moved away from Tom Ford’s dark mahogany and heavy displays and transcended into smooth white marble surfaces, ceiling to floor mirrors and minimalist metallic structures that are meant to inspire serenity and calm. Once again, the focus falls on the clothes but maintains an artistic décor that is anything but invasive towards the shopping experience.
Of the more recent openings and makeovers throughout London’s fashion clusters, Hermes teamed up with Denis Montel of RDAI to breathe new life into their iconic flagship store on Bond Street. Where previous stores where a dull sea of white meant to keep shoppers’ eyes glued to the merchandise and with no interference from the outside world, Hermes went the other way and introduced light wooden flooring, breezy shelving, an abundance of natural light working with the nooks and crannies of the building’s classical architecture and a number of modern elements that give the entire space a soft and inviting atmosphere.
Neri & Hu combined the Californian brightness with the Japanese order and minimalism in order to redefine the space of Selfridge’s Women’s Wear retail store. The Body Studio covers well over 6,400sqm and thrives on slim geometric wooden lines and massive yet unobtrusive ceiling lights that are reminiscent of the traditional Japanese rice paper panels. The creative agency managed to keep the space tastefully simple and functional, without disregarding the value of interior design as a standalone visual art – and at the epicentre of all of this, customers will find a stunning variety of clothing, lingerie, shoes and accessories, as part of their immersive shopping experience.
The Harvey Nichols flagship store underwent massive work from the talented designers at Vigile + Partners, who paid exceptional attention to the optimisation of the ‘dynamics of the customer journey’. Where other fashion retail stores tend to fall into the “shop within a shop” format, the creative agency redefined the spaces of the British brand’s home and presented a sequence of individual experience still well connected to each other – a collection of specialty boutiques. The overall artistic sense concentrates on simple but expressive horizontal surfaces, combined with vertical lines and geometrical patterns of organic and metallic origin, as well as discrete but flattering lighting elements that ultimately bring out the best in the merchandise displays.
Italian fashion giant Valentino once again commissioned the services of British architect David Chipperfield to redefine their flagship store on Old Bond Street. The building façade is a giant cluster of black frames highlighting some of the brand’s signature Pret-A-Porter seasonal creations, while the interior follows in the footsteps of Valentino’s New York atmosphere, bringing the air of the sumptuous “palazzo” into a classical English building. Tender concrete grey Carrara marble meets smooth wood in each of Valentino’s spaces – where the neutral tone leaves room for the fashion to be displayed in all of its glory on coat hangers, the natural accent takes the customer on a unique journey along the vitrines and throughout the entire department store.
Many other fashion retailers have chosen to work with avant-garde creatives from the architecture and interior design fields in order to generate new and interesting shopping spaces, focusing on the merchandise but also paying attention to the customer’s overall experience. Some of them include the Jigsaw Store by Barber Design, which mixes vintage styles with minimalism; the French contemporary brand of APC Store designed by Laurent Deroo, which features glazed ceramic bricks that compliment the surrounding London pubs; Oasis teamed up with Dalziel & Pow for their Tottenham Court Road store, adding a hair and nail bar, as well as a café to their shopping experience; and last but certainly not least, Chalayan Boutique dazzled fashion aficionados with the help of ZCD Architects for their shop in Mayfair: art, film, fashion and architecture meet in a methodically composed space based on triangular floor-tiling, a black steel rail that acts as a slim backbone for the entire structure, and a dark wooden boat serving as a counter, all in a simple yet fascinating palette of black and white. We were certainly impressed!