As international fashion houses continue to flock to Australian shores, local designers are similarly making waves overseas.
In the same week, two of Australia’s largest fashion labels, Zimmerman and sass and bide have launched their flagship stores in fashion nirvana: Soho in New York City.
Zimmermann, which first landed in the United States in 2011 with a boutique store on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, made its mark on New York last year.
This month saw the high-end label move just a few doors down from its current store on 87 Mercer Street to its largest retail boutique anywhere in the world at 55 Mercer Street. The new 350 square metre store, located within a heritage building, has enough room to house the brand’s full ready-to-wear collection with interiors that reflect the company’s Australian heritage.
Designed by Sydney architect Don McQualter, who has been commissioned to design other Zimmermann boutiques, the space exudes quite a pared back interior that still manages to hold warmth through a neutral colour palette of beige couches, modular black chairs and bronze dressing room curtains.
“We wanted to keep the décor polished but still [maintain the] slightly raw feeling, so the more industrial elements like the floorboards, lights and mirrored windows balance out the prettiness of the prints and colour,” Nicky Zimmermann, creative director told Style.Com.
The industrial inspiration is demonstrated through suspended spotlights, matte wooden floorboards and floor length mirrors that casually lean against walls, while clothes hang from simple black railings across from exposed brick walls.
A two-minute walk away from Zimmermann, sass & bide also unveiled its flagship store in Soho. The new store, spanning 185 square metres and located on a coveted corner at Broome and Wooster streets, is the company’s first international retail boutique.
The high-end designer recently returned to New York Fashion Week in 2013 to showcase its collection ahead of the store launch following a five-year absence from the city’s runway.
Designers Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton of sass & bide also sought an Australian architect for the design. They commissioned Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative, who also designed the label’s Brisbane store in Australia.
According to The Australian, Middleton asked Ho to meet the standards set out in a simple, four-word design brief: beauty, strength, modernity and spirit.
“I wanted these four elements represented in the store, and I wanted a tonal white-on-white gallery-esque space to house the varying collections that come through,” she said.
The open space is certainly very white, while textured materials and decor bring the store to life. The store features a striking white glazed sculpture that weaves throughout the boutique, suspending from the ceiling and walls while serving as an interesting backdrop to the fashion collection.
Suspended strip lights add to the store’s minimalist aesthetic while the shop’s frontage boasts floor to ceiling windows and dual glass doors that immerse the gallery-inspired space with natural light.
Both stores have a raw yet contemporary feel with the design of both linked to the relaxed culture of Australia.
A 2009 research project conducted in Belgium by Malaika Brengman and Kim Willems found that fashion store design is extremely important to determining the public’s perception of the personality of both the store itself and the brand.
“Retailers and store designers should be aware of the important role of ‘atmospherics’ in this regard,” the study said.
So while the likes of a Chanel or Dolce & Gabbana retail boutique will focus on luxury furniture, opulent lighting and intricate details that align with the exclusivity of their products and services, both Zimmermann and sass & bide have let their product decorate the space, embracing minimalism.
Both spaces also reflect the growing trend toward industrial aesthetics in retail design. That trend sees unfinished elements and raw materials such as concrete or timber applied to create a more authentic experience and create a clean aesthetic that keeps the focus on the product and allows consumers extra space to move around the store in a gallery-type manner.