Thursday, May 26, 2011

Regent Street Windows Project

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have transformed the windows of London’s Regent Street by bringing architects together with a number of high profile retailers. The theme ‘Cities of Tomorrow’ inspired some of London’s cutting edge designers to adorn windows with some awe-inspiring scenes over the past fortnight.

The common theme running through many of the windows is the use of mirrors, which cleverly reflect out onto the street – in some cases bringing parts of the street back inside the window. Hut (for Aquascutum) and Honey (for Duchamp) have done a great job of creating this effect. Each window also featured a QR code detailing information about the installation and listing other stores forming part the exhibition trail. 

The project was first initiated last year and run by RIBA London as part of the London Festival of Architecture 2010. The ten collaborations this year included:

DSDHA/Diploma Unit 11 at London Metropolitan University with Banana Republic

craft:pegg with the National Geographic Store

Ian McChesney with Levi's – there’s an awesome timelapse video produced by Frame showing the assembly.

Honey with Duchamp

HUT with Aquascutum

Glowacka-Rennie Architects & Millimetre with Hoss Intropia

Marks Barfield Architects with Gant

Duggan Morris Architects with Ferrari

OSA (Office for Subversive Architecture) with Ted Baker London

Scott Brownrigg with Uniqlo

The video posted below features brief interviews with each of the architects discussing the motivation behind their concept.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Brand Events I Wish I’d Attended Last Week

Bras N Things opened its 200th retail store last Tuesday at Hay St in Perth and to promote it, sent consumers on a city wide lingerie hunt. Two hundred mannequins dressed in the brand’s lingerie were scattered around the CBD as clues were dropped on Facebook and Twitter during the course of the day as to their location. Those who found the mannequins and returned them to the Hay St store were rewarded with a free bra and brief set of their choice.


If that wasn’t enough to get young ladies out onto the streets hunting down scantily clad plastic forms, then the charity alignment should have been. For every mannequin returned BNT also donated $50 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. A total of $10,000 was donated and 194 of the 200 mannequins were returned. Which equates to at least 194 people visiting the new store on opening day, not to mention the hype it attracted nationally. Such a clever promotion to drive traffic and great use of social media as the vehicle.  


Converse held a Block Party at the Prahran Skate Bowl on Saturday. Bringing together skating, basketball, hip hop, street art and break dancing – all segments of the ‘street’ market the brand represents. Unfortunately the weather was pretty miserable but from the photos it looked like they had a few peeps competing in the 3 on 3 basketball and Viva Skate comps.


Converse have been busy hosting Block Parties all around the globe of late… we shared our date with a party also taking place in Argentina.

Photos thanks to Jeremy Kid. More images available at Sneaker Freaker.

Monday, May 16, 2011

VM is the New Black!

So proclaimed Amanda Henderson from Gloss Creative at last Tuesday nights Retail Design Institute gathering for ‘Tailoring the New Shopping Experience.’ VM is experiencing a revival  as “the rockstar of the retail world” after having “been systematically dismantled in chain stores over the past decade in favour of topline advertising concepts and sales driven merchandising strategies.”

Henderson believes that the best examples of VM are created through collaborative efforts when artists, architects, interior designers, even graphic designers are given a brand’s permission to experiment, along with creative freedom. This ‘Hybrid Design’ approach allows for a blurring of forums – where the installation could be viewed in a gallery, on a runway, in a corporate boardroom or in a retail store.

Gloss Creative, amongst other endeavours, has been responsible for the Sportsgirl Suite – a staging area at flagships Bourke Street, Chadstone and Pitt Street, that is dedicated to art style installations where no product is required to be displayed and the only brief is that the content must be Sportsgirl minded – fun, energetic and colourful.

Their latest installation for the brand ‘make do and mend’ ties in with the brands focus on knitting. Not just knitwear in their latest range, but also a series of knitting workshops they’re running in store and DIY knitting videos available on the Sportsgirl blog. Gloss collaborated with illustrator, Chantel De Sousa and created a range of forest animals that are surrounded by handcrafted acorns and knitted scarves displayed within a houndstooth setting.

knit 1 knit 2 knit 3

Another recent collaboration linked with Sportsgirl’s ‘Fashion Icons’ campaign. Gloss created “an inspired souvenir shop with a collection of fashion icon plates displayed in cabinets, on the walls, overflowing in piles on the floor.” They strung hessian bunting and printed flags overhead with the premise, “given the chance what fashion icon would you have for dinner?”

dinner 1 dinner 2 dinner 3 

Henderson also noted that we are seeing a greater effort to build VM into store design. Take Aesop for example – the stores have little VM. Instead objects like bottles, cardboard and furniture pieces have been incorporated into the design to act as an alternative to traditional shop fixtures.

aesop adelaide 1 aesop flinders 1 aesop london 1

Paul Bonnici, Director of Create & Communicate 2C (but probably best known as former Director of Marketing & Creative at Myer) spoke of the importance of VM in an area he knows intimately - department stores. He believes their real challenge in vying for the top spot in the global post GFC economy is “taking an innovative idea and commercialising it.” He referenced Bergdorf Goodman for their ability to create campaigns that provided a point of difference. In April they ran a couple of very different promotions including ‘Blue Yarn’ which featured accessories and bags and elements of blue stitching.

image image image 

They also displayed ‘Water for Elephants’, tying in with the film starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. Two completely unrelated campaigns, but which both attracted the attention of shoppers and drove traffic in store.

image image image

Bonnici also spoke of the charming Merci in Paris’ Marais District. It contains a mix of homewares, a florist, perfumery, restaurant, book shop and clothing. The Fiat in the front courtyard takes on different elements relating to the season. They change the store over each week and tweak daily – every visit guarantees something new.

 ceramics at merci, paris

Selfridges was also applauded for its longstanding commitment to bringing entertainment to its stores. Harry Gordon Selfridge opened the store in 1909 with the intention of bringing wonders from around the globe to amaze and excite customers. Despite a change of ownership in the past decade, the store still holds this mantra in high regard. Such an example is the Yellow Promotion which celebrated 100 years of Selfridges. Theming reached all touchpoints – windows, VM, entertainment, through to the uniforms and food. There was even alignment with brands such as Coca-Cola to create exclusive yellow products.

Bonicci summed up by providing his checklist for how to create a successful VM campaign:
  1. Look beyond the product,
  2. Consider the retailers business model,
  3. Don’t censor ideas,
  4. Maintain objectivity; and
  5. Commit to a timeline.
The department store discussion does lead on to the topic of our own two major retailers, Myer and David Jones which have both completed refurbishments of their Melbourne flagships in the past 12 months. You may have wondered why, when I live in this city,  I haven’t written about either of them. The simple answer is that they haven’t inspired me to write. Whilst Myer does go someway to reflect the high quality finishes and design elements of overseas department stores, they both fall well short of any Wow factor. This sentiment appeared to be reflected throughout the audience when discussed at question time. Bonnici succinctly informed all that both these businesses are lacking a Creative Director, driving home once again the importance of establishing strong creative structures within retail businesses.

As a side note I do believe the builds of the refurbished DJs and Myer stores have the potential to be wonderful places. They both need to find the courage and invest in making them truly creative and inviting spaces. I hope they give me reason to share such activities with you in the very near future.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Heart Wanders

Well it wasn’t so much my heart that was wandering this morning, more my eyes which fell upon this fantastic window display as I was strolling back from the markets.

I generally like to gaze in at the latest literary offerings through the window of the Coventry Bookstore in South Melbourne, but this is the first time I’ve noticed that they have themed the entire window space for one novel. Pia Jane Bijkerk’s novel, My Heart Wanders is described as “a reflective and inspirational memoir that chronicles her travels across the world. She leaves behind a comfortable life in Sydney to follow, unconditionally, her instincts. Setting up home first in Paris, then on a houseboat in Amsterdam, Pia observes the serendipitous moments that present themselves when letting go and following one's dreams.”


The windows are full of brown paper cut out hearts and the paper wreath that resembles white roses at first glance in the centre, draws my eye straight to the novel. The “from Sydney to Paris to Amsterdam” scrawled across the front glass immediately makes me whimsical for tales of travel particularly with the autumnal leaves lying scattered on the path out the front of the store. The earthy tones and theming create a sense of romance and cosiness. Hmm… I want to know more about this book and the author behind it.

Reading Pia’s blog it’s quickly revealed that she created the window dressing herself and has been invited by a number of boutique bookstores around country to do something similar.  As a stylist and photographer she’s had work featured in Elle Interior, Home Beautiful, Belle, etc and is clearly more than qualified to promote her novel in such style. It’s so lovely to see so many book stores being inviting of such a collaboration.

IMG_0872 IMG_0873 IMG_0874IMG_0871

Apologies for the poor photography with reflections.