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Everlasting consumerism has shaped the way 21st century landscape looks like. It creates unlimited demand of products and stores in any possible space. Retail design is responsible to convert this possible space into a ‘consumerism space’. It is where people encounter strong force to see and buy products. A perfect example to show evidence exists in fashion world. There is strong indication of tense competition happens between clothing manufacture to win the market. In relation to that, the store has become one key aspect or rather a strong statement to create brand awareness among public. The question arise is how, in a relatively over-saturated market, a store can be possibly designed to convey strong message to draw the ‘crowd of consumerism’ into the space.
1.1. Consumerism Today
The idea of consuming has changed over the past decades. Back to the early human civilization period, most of the activities were needs-driven actions. Earlier, as hunter gatherer, human hunted animals to be able to eat. Followed by agricultural period, farming and plant cultivation were done to produce their food. Consuming was a mere activity that must be done in order to survive. In Industrial and technological age, the way people consume things has changed. As more diverse product being produced and diverse ways of distribution being invented, there are pleasure factors of consuming in form of choices. People find excitement in choosing what they want to consume. This leads to modern consumerism where the concept of consuming goes beyond the needs of survival.
1.2. Shopping as Modern Consumerism
Shopping is the 21st century’s representation of human consumerism. People find delights surrounded by range of different shops and brands. To be able to choose and compares is the highlight of modern life consumerism. In forms of choosing, buying, and using, shopping has catered these needs. Shopping can be seen as in a positive way of fulfilling people’s needs and wants. But apparently, it has developed so fast, in terms of activity, space, and products. And over the past decades, it becomes major aspect in human life.
Museums, libraries, airports, hospitals, and schools are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from shopping. Their adoption of retail for survival has unleashed an enormous wave of commercial entrapment that has transformed museumgoers, researchers, travelers, patients, and students into customers (Koolhaas cited in Luna, 2005, p.26)
Shopping is arguably the most universal activity nowadays. The way designer design space has to follow this idea as well. Space has to be designed in such a way to accommodate this, to enable people to shop anywhere, anytime.
1.3. The Existence of Fashion Retail
Fashion retail perhaps is the best example to portray the modern consumerism. It shows how people eagerly choose what they wear under the spotlight of diverse fashion brands. If the case is taken to a higher level, it demonstrates obviously how people decisions are led by choice instead of needs. High class fashion brands such as LMVH, Gucci, and Prada exist to serve beyond people’s demand of clothing. They meet people’s desire for choices for range of luxury products.
1.4. Fashion of Singapore
Singapore cityscape pictures clearly the existence of international fashion brands. They, indeed, has become one strong attraction point of Singapore for both local costumers and tourists. Singapore is one of the main competition arenas for these giant fashion brands in Asia. To be able to meet customers’ demand, every brand has to come up with high-end design for its retail. Design and technologies are optimized in its use to boost the shopping experience that lead to brand awareness. All these things have to be done so that people will choose certain brand and not others. Orchard Road is a good example depicting the competition among these brands. Interior design, facade treatment, display technologies are being optimized to attract pedestrians along the road.
2. Retail Rebirth
People find pleasures in choosing what they want. Retail has two different approaches in response to the demand. Firstly, they must be able to provide a range of products for customers to choose. Secondly, the retail itself subject to competition. That means it is also considered one of so many choices in the market. In this matter, the retail has to prove to the market that it is worth chosen. The brand, the products, and the store has to work together to stand out and creates strong awareness in the marketplace. Retail has to rebirth, leaving old conservative way of promoting brands, and creating fresh interaction between products and customers.
2.1. Brand Manifestation
With a strong competition in the fashion market, a strong distinctive image of a brand is required to create public awareness. The case is not only competition among products but also continues to the environment where the products being promoted. At this stage, a store has become key tool for the brand to create its images. A flagship store is designed to represents the identity of the brand indeed. For new customers, the store become the first things that attracts them before they go further down to the products being offered or even before they see the window displays.
2.1.1. Design for the Brands
Architecture and interior design are responsible to create environment to deliver products to customers. Fashion retail, regardless of style, trends, or brand identity, should be able to create customer awareness and stimulate them to come and choose it instead of other shops. This is the fundamental function of retail design before it goes down into a deeper and more specific case-based function. On higher level, the architect or interior designer must understand the nature of fabric and how individual fashion designer, that is being represented, has their personal technique to treat it. This unique quality is the one that gives character to a brand. The character, then, must be translated into the space in order to create strong statement of the brand.
2.1.2. Emphasizing Character
In order to be distinctive in an over-crowded market, a strong character of the brand is required. This character is projected from the way the brand carry itself to the market. It consists of range of products and service being offered, and the environment of where the commercial activities take place. Retail design has to be able to create the atmosphere that bridge customers and products. The store acts as a package and shelter, literally and metaphorically, to the brand. The character will only be emphasized if there is unity between the brand, the product, and the store.
2.1.3. Characterizing Structure
A store as a physical shelter might be more than enough to envelope the commercial activity happening under it. But in fashion world, it goes further than functionality. More than just a place to display the product and providing circulation for people to walk and browse the product, the retail has to relate itself to the product and the company philosophy. In other words, the store has to establish relation, in form and purpose, with the clothes. The physical structure, that provide commercial environment, has to blend in with the clothes and create overall unity. Only by this way, the customer will see the bigger picture of the brand, and not loose pieces of the brands.
One ideal example of harmony between brand and store is shown in Calvin Klein store located in Avenue Montaigne, Paris. Its store, designed by John Pawson in 2002, made a good illustration of how the character of the clothes -especially the early Calvin Klein’s work- has been translated into the retail space.
(Klein) has said “It ‘s important not to confuse simplicity with uninteresting,” and executes his simplified, refined, sportswear-based shapes in luxurious natural fibers,… (Stegemeyer, 2004, p.130)
It is the idea of simplicity that is consistently conveyed through the brand, products, and store. Straight lines and clear space sequences brings out the clarity of the clothes, creating a clean and subtle ambiance of the store. The desired simplicity atmosphere is reinforced through neutral colour that is achieved by materials and lighting installation.
2.2. Design Distinction
A character manifestation to a space is inevitability essentials to create strong brand awareness. However, regardless of the brand that is being represented, fashion store can be distinctive by itself. It is a second step after establishing strong representation of the brand. This is about different approach from the experience side, exploring the interaction between products and customers in a conducive controlled environment. In other word, it redefines the way people shop inside a store, creating a fresh shopping experience.
2.2.1. New Fashion Stores Fundamental
With Singapore landscape that has been over-crowded with shopping malls and retail stores, the creation of retail store should be more carefully considered. When the market is driven by consumerism, the rate of retail formation will continue to rise up. However, any retail creation should consider avoiding similar addition to the existing scene that might create saturation to market. It is a strategy to evade the similarity and, at the same time, open up a chance to stand out in the marketplace. To address the issues, the store must cater certain factors in its design approach in spite of the brand it conveys.
2.2.2. Flexible Frequent Space
Retails should be able to update themselves frequently. It has to be able to adapt to new products, seasonality, and customer trends.
There is a high level of experimentation in retail design. It relates to fashion, and fashion changes constantly, is surprising and wants to create experiences (de Wild, 2009, p.14)
In advance level, apart from the temporary things, it has to change in order to create different interaction between customers and product in each encounter. In other word it needs to shift, not just in terms of layout, but in a bigger store scheme. By applying this concept, it is not only the window displays that change every time new products are launched, but the whole store represent the display that able to change entirely. The idea can be achieved by applying modular system for the furniture, placing digital multimedia interface, using less heavy fixed display furniture, and installing replaceable lighting systems.
2.2.3. Centre of Social Activities
The new concept of retail store is not merely about catering commercial activities -selling, advertising, and buying. It is to incorporate retail space and communal space to be a social meeting point.
With the global trend of privatization, I think we are most interested in the idea of shopping as a new kind of public space. How can we enrich these experiences? Can we bring new content, information, ideas and visual experiences to shopping in a thoughtful and dynamic way? (Seller, 2009, p. 23)
The idea is to facilitate people do many other inspiring activities in their shopping time. This idea can be done by open-space concept store, creation of different communal spaces inside the store, and even distribution between product display and decorative items -plants, resting furniture, etc. The ideal integration of social space and commercial space is when people are able to rest and relief without any pressure to buy while they are unconsciously take pleasure in the products and tempted to buy.
2.2.4. Cultural Relevance
Local relevancy is important to make a store appears hospitable. Establishing relation with the local culture is crucial to relate the global brand to smaller local market. Selling products is not about bombarding potential customers with the global products. Instead, it has to be relevant to the context and understand local customers. This can be manifested through adaptive re-use of local landmark as retail space, renovation of historical aged building, and design fusion between brand character and local culture. The new concept store is about being able to combine the attractiveness of the brand with local taste to create strong invitation and also sense of belonging to customers.
The design approach mentioned above can be applied into a store regardless of brands and products. The purpose is to create new way of shopping. Back to the statement earlier where people find satisfaction to be able to choose, it is how the choosing activity can be more valuable and rich in experience. When this approach merged with the brand character, it becomes a holistic package that convey strongly to the marketplace. The mission is accomplished when people find delight in choosing and be able to trustfully choose the brand.
The consumerism-driven market will make people enthusiastically choose the products they want. With an over-saturated market in Singapore, an unconventional design is required to for a fashion retail to be distinctive and thus, win the market. Firstly, the store has to manifest the brand that it represents. The store design must convey the brand and products philosophy to create holistic picture and strong brand awareness. Secondly, in terms experience, it must create refreshing and enriching way of shopping. In attempt to achieve the experience, store needs to be designed with consideration of three approaches (flexible frequent space, center of social activities, and cultural relevance). The new retail store requires constant changing in order to provide up to date shopping experience for customers. A store has to be a social assembly more than a commercial place, providing a tranquil customer-oriented atmosphere. Additionally, it is necessary for a store to have a connection with local context and create a sense of belonging in customers mind.
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