Online shopping may offer the choice and convenience that physical stores can only dream of, but nothing beats the experience of a great bricks and mortar shop. Around the world, a clutch of concept stores are redefining the retail experience by turning their homes into genuine cultural destinations where people can linger for hours – if not days – at a time.
In some of the best concept stores, ‘shopping’ is merely incidental. Browsing an exhibition, sitting down for a coffee and putting on a record might seem like a distraction from the task at hand, but they’re part of what keeps us hooked. A true brand immersion will also fuel our digital loyalty too, encouraging us to part with our cash (if the store has an online counterpart).
Here, we visit 10 of the world’s most magnetic retail destinations. Enter them at your own peril.
Rei Kawakubo changed the retail game when she opened Dover Street Market in London’s Mayfair eleven years ago, creating an ever-evolving fashion hub where both up-and-coming and established designers converged for a carnival-like fashion wonderland. Now she’s forging a new path by relocating to Haymarket – formerly a retail ‘dead zone’. Under Kawakubo’s direction, each of the labels has designed its own mini-home inside the five-floor space, which comes dotted with art installations. J.W.Anderson’s space is centred around a playground slide, while Gosha Rubchinskiy’s hub has giant photographic landscape of Moscow tower blocks as its backdrop. The secret to this ‘beautiful chaos’ – as she calls it – is its ability to surprise.
Having started life as a popular lifestyle website for the well-heeled, The Line decided to exhibit its wares offline, from the comfort of an inspiring apartment. Designed to embody The Line’s ethos and reflect its location, the expertly appointed New York dwelling offers visitors a (by appointment) immersion into the lifestyle it touts. A second apartment (pictured) – which opened late last year – now offers LA residents a home away from home. We would happily outstay our welcome.
Seamlessly fusing the worlds of fashion and fine art, Paola Russo’s Just One Eye champions creative collaboration like no other. The boutique-cum-gallery sells the likes of crocodile-skin backpacks by Damien Hirst, hangs Takashi Murakami on its walls and most recently launched Yeezy Season I.
Occupying an entire townhouse in the heart of Antwerp, Graanmarkt 13 comprises a restaurant, gallery, store and now lodgings all under one roof. Designed by leading Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen to be the store’s ‘best kept secret’, the four-bedroom top floor apartment can be rented for €1,300 a night. Be warned: you’ll want to buy everything in your room.
New York is an unlikely destination for a surf brand but that’s precisely the point – the Big (uptight) Apple has been crying out for some chilled West Coast vibes. Since opening in 2009, Saturdays NYC has gone from serving espressos and wetsuits to home goods, grooming products, art and more.
Going beyond the concept store, Bikini Berlin is the world’s first concept mall – a community of concepts if you will. Amongst an array of fashion, beauty, lifestyle and gastronomy stores including LNFA (Live Networking Fashion & Art), the mall’s ‘pool’ area features twenty stationary pop-up stores, which can be rented for up to a year.
Philos in Athens is a meeting of two worlds, or more accurately two eras. Situated in a renovated Neoclassical townhouse, the store’s period features offer a rawness that accentuate the physicality of the retail experience, creating a fascinating contrast between the lifestyles of the old and the contemporary.
The Store in Soho House Berlin bills itself as a cultural hub of high fashion, food, lifestyle, art installations, co-working and photography – a total destination where you can idle (or work) from morning through to night. The Store upholds a members’ club feel but is available to everyone, bringing Soho House cool to the masses.
One way to ensure the longevity of a concept store is to regularly change the concept. This is the idea at the heart of Merci in Paris, a converted 19th-century fabric factory that features three floors of design and fashion, a garden, literary café and canteen, and gives all its profits to charity.
Equal parts high-end design store, restaurant, café and co-working ‘lab’, Tenoha in Tokyo’s trendy Daikanyama district is big into wellbeing. So much so, the combined café and food market puts health and beauty at the forefront, with fitness instructors offering dietary advice and exercise videos for its visitors.