Retail design: sustainable, experiential and socially responsible
My retail design project for my BA Hons, a sustainable, experiential and socially responsible interior for the year 2040.
The client chosen for this project was sustainable fashion brand Bite Studios and the brief was to design their flagship store in Great Marlborough Street, London. A relatively new brand they were founded in 2016 by William Lundgren and Veronica Kant, the design is minimalist and rigorously cut, with a calm palette of cream, grey and oatmeal.
The silhouettes are classic and their whole ethos is sustainable, with cruelty free silk, rose petal fabric and recycled PET buttons. The manufacturing is limited to London and Portugal making it possible to guarantee quality and the fair treatment of the craftsmen making the clothes.
They offer a lifetime repair on products and a buyback scheme and are currently working on chip tracked garments, allowing their customers to track the environmental impact of their clothes.
The client, sustainability and generational research have had the greatest impact on arriving at a concept and the functions to be included in the space.
By picking out key words themes were identified, minimalism is connected both to the client and sustainability which therefore makes it relevant to generation alpha (the brief was to design a retail space for the year 2040) who will value transparency and make ethical choices as consumers.
Bite studios classic silhouettes and the repeated forms of minimalist art and architecture led me to the word ‘repetition’.
The resulting concept “repetition is a form of change” comes from Oblique Strategies, a set of 100 cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt as a method for promoting creativity. This concept links the minimalist design of Bite studios clothing with sustainability, recognised as a very necessary change.
The space is entered at ground floor level, expanding Bite studios collaborative approach, the first area encountered will be a pop-up retail space providing an ever-changing display to entice customers in, a single customer service desk will serve as a reception and transaction desk. Also on this level is the cafe area offering a co-working space for like-minded creatives. The centre point of the space will be the atrium utilised for vertical circulation. The functions will be linked by common space with a centralised strategy, this creates a network strategy to the circulation where customers can navigate any way they wish allowing them to select the function they want to access.
The basement is the main retail space, creating a spacious gallery environment to showcase their collections. The layout is linear, keeping sightlines clear and allowing flexibility in the design. The fitting rooms, WC’s and shower utilise dark areas of the building, the servery above is connected to the main kitchen with a dumb waiter. The area to the top left is the repairs and customisation room, this is also doubles as the transaction area and an interactive area where customers can access the information contained in the chips on their garments.
The mezzanine is essentially a staff area, with office, reception and desk space. There is additional storage to add to that located in the main retail space and customer service desk.
The staircase beneath the atrium creates a dramatic focal point, stairs are inherently repetitive the changes in direction add additional design elements and create an interesting journey and views.
The railing design takes inspiration from an X span folded paper model, through distortion this has been made to comply with building regulations for guarding. Beneath the staircase is product display and an indoor garden with a dwarf mulberry tree complete with silkworms, educating customers about their ethical sourcing.
Sustainability is considered throughout in the materials chosen, the existing concrete slab will be polished, therefore requiring no additional materials, reclaimed wooden flooring will create the additional mezzanine area and ramp. A minimalist palette of cream and black was used throughout, echoing the palette of Bite’s collections. Texture was added within the bathrooms and fitting rooms with Clayworks clay render. Materials are kept to a minimum and chosen for their recyclable properties, because so many fixtures and furniture are bespoke, complete control can be taken over the supply chain and it would be possible to specify materials with a high recycled content which are ultimately recyclable at the end of their lives.
Simple furnishings have been chosen with respect to sustainability and flexibility, the modular grid system creates displays, planters and seating in the pop-up shop.
Lighting has been chosen for functionality and minimalism, hung in linear configuration, they will give an even distribution of light and many are adjustable.
Feature lighting adds interest, previously Bite have used lighting installations in their spaces and these features are an important part of the design. Acoustic lighting is installed above the cafe tables and desks controlling echoes in sparsely furnished space.
Giving context to the bespoke designs, these images demonstrate the conceptual approach to the installation and customer service desk. The designs are inspired by abstract model making generated by the concept.
The folded paper models clearly link concept to the final design, the bespoke structure creates interesting shadows and doubles as guarding for the floor void at ground floor level.
Modular in design, the banquet cafe seating is accessible, grown from mycelium they are lightweight, entirely natural and biodegradable at the end of their usage. The hanging rails appear to continue within the columns, disappearing into them and continuing on the other side.
The feature staircase creates a strong focal point and connects all functions, being BOTH aesthetic and practical in its design, the changing directions reflect the concept.
The concept has informed all features of the design, from the early abstract models design development has drawn on these forms and minimalism. Connecting the footprint of the staircase to the ceiling, beams have been installed creating a feature to draw the eye upwards and accentuating the angles of the staircase below.
The simplicity of the design comes from the linear strategy creating open spaces and clear way finding in keeping with Bite’s minimalist aesthetic, and utilising their palette. The functions incorporated into this space are inspired by Bite’s socially responsible ethics, the cafe will source food sustainably and collaboration will be encouraged through educating their customers about their ethics and through the inclusion of the pop-up shop.
Of great importance to this design is generational research carried out, this makes Bite studios ethics and approach relevant to the future generation and inspired the minimalist and collaborative design and functions of the space. Rather than being futuristic, the design is timeless, much like Bite Studios own collections. The retail space has clean lines and is spacious in design, this allows for an ever changing display of art and collections. The flexibility of the design will be its success, its neutrality allows the contents to take centre stage. The neutral palette will sit comfortably in its location, creating a calm environment within the heart of the city.
When asked by vogue to sum up Bite Studios in three words, founding member, William Lundgren, response was “Aesthetic, crafted, timeless”, the design reflects these 3 words and therefore the brand.