With art-filled enclaves, a skatepark and even a full-service hotel, retail brands have been broadening their horizons this month to immerse and strengthen loyal customer communities.
For this new concept bookstore in East London, Spanish studio SelgasCano has taken the 1940s fantasy novel The Library of Babel by Borges as its unusual inspiration. Evoking an almost infinite library where hexagonal galleries contain every possible combination of letters, the bookshop features a mirrored ceiling and angled, zigzagging shelving made from unfinished recycled wood, which carves out nooks where visitors can sit and read. Much more than just a store, Libreria is conceived as a vibrant, interdisciplinary community that shows that there’s a fresh lease of life for print and handicrafts in the digital age. Along with an on-site printing press, there’s a community space running seminars, performances and 24-hour events.
What we love
Books are organised across the shelves by theme, rather than being broken up into typical categories, to encourage chance discovery instead of algorithmic recommendation – for example, a book of poetry might be displayed right above one on evolutionary psychology. A no-phone policy turns it from store to sanctuary.
The iconic New York department store has opened a tech-enhanced 5,110sqm flagship in downtown Manhattan. Located on the block where Barneys was founded back in 1923, this new incarnation has a more intimate feel than its uptown counterpart but immediately makes its mark with a 170ft stainless steel marquee that runs along the 7th Avenue façade. Inside, the atrium’s focal point is a dramatic sculptural spiral staircase. The offer spans men’s and women’s fashion, footwear, accessories, cosmetics and the brand’s signature Fred’s restaurant/bar, as well as a barbershop. Each floor has its own distinctive design, from sculptural white textured walls and terrazzo flooring on the lower level to lush upholstery fabrics, sculptural brass tables and marble for a luxe residential feel on the second floor.
What we love
While drawing on its long heritage, Barneys equally makes the most of new technology to enhance the shopping experience. It uses beacons to share multimedia content with shoppers and send personalised recommendations from The Window, Barneys’ editorial site, to users who choose to opt-in, while a customer service app on associates’ iPads connects online and offline behaviours and preferences to help better serve shoppers.
Swiss watch manufacturer Officine Panerai’s first Patricia Urquiola-designed flagship store has opened in the Miami Design District, within a vibrant palm tree-filled plaza. The interior reflects the technical codes of the brand’s luxury timepieces. For example, a series of metal and gold-finished chandeliers are constructed out of suspended disks, rings and lamps in reference to the functional components that drive Panerai’s watches. Similarly, a materials palette of veined marble, bronze and wooden materials acts as a tribute the brand’s Florentine origins, and a subtle nautical theme nods to the fact that Panerai supplied precision instruments to the Italian navy during the 1950s.
What we love
Showcasing cultural nous and bringing a sense of intimate exclusivity is a smart strategy for appealing to the brand’s luxury clientele – accordingly, the store includes a private gallery displaying works by contemporary artists.
The latest launch from Italian brand Fendi is not only a store, but also a full hotel and restaurant, located in its home city of Rome. The six-floor 17th century Palazzo on prestigious Via Condotti is decked out in lavish finishes – a circular bronze and glass elevator, floors are laid in Marquina marble, and a sweeping staircase carved from a single piece of red Lepanto marble. The two-floor retail space (the brand’s largest to date) has been designed by French architect Gwenael Nicolas, populated with contemporary artworks. Above this is a boutique hotel of seven suites furnished with Fendi Casa homeware products and designed by architect Marco Costanzi, along with a private VIP apartment for client fittings and events. Topping it all is a rooftop bar and London-based Japanese restaurant Zuma.
What we love
This is an impressive exercise in full brand immersion, which extends engagement time with key customers in an evocative, leisure-orientated way – as discussed in our Time Well Spent insight piece. As Pietro Beccari, Fendi chairman and chief executive officer, says: “This is not just a hotel, a restaurant, an apartment and a shop. It’s our incarnation of our sense of aesthetics.”
One brand no stranger to extending its remit beyond stores is sports giant Nike. For the winter months it has created a temporary indoor skate park in a former car wash in New York’s Williamsburg district. The space acts as a seasonal stand-in for Nike’s waterfont outdoor skate park. In addition to the clusters of handrails, funboxes and vert ramps, the Nike SB Garage has pro models from skate icons P-Rod, Stefan Janoski and Eric Koston on display to impress enthusiasts while they practise their ollies and kick-flips, while Nike SB products and videos are showcased in the locker rooms. Ten skaters are allowed in each session on a first-come, first-serve basis.
What we love
The space was designed with the help of Nike Skateboarding’s team (which counts four-time Street League Skateboarding champion Nyjah Huston) for an authentic experience and grassroots kudos.
We always like to spotlight local retail – there’s no shortage of great stores in our corner of London – and stationery boutique Quill impressed us this month. Not only does it stock beautiful paper craft products from brands such as Kate Spade and Christian Lacroix plus lesser-known names, it also offers a calligraphy service and a huge array of workshops so customers can make the most of its range – options range from brush lettering to modern origami.
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