Starting off our series of Local Brand features, we are publishing a brand report on…
Flagship stores show a brand at the top of its game, a concentrated version of everything a company represents inside an exclusive (and often very expensive!) space. The most curious part of flagship stores is that many of them aren’t under pressure to make a huge amount of profit. These stores instead exist to communicate the aesthetics of a brand through retail design, technology, flawless service and cutting edge architecture.
A flagship store is also the space for a retail brand to trial new or limited edition products alongside its full range. As well as the look, the location of a flagship store means everything. High fashion stores fight for shops on New York’s 5th avenue, the most expensive street in the world, whereas Regent and Oxford Street are the roads to go in London.
Flagship stores are for many big names a chance to show off and be spectacular, and so many stores around the world have expanded beyond a bigger version of their normal shop and have become something else entirely. Big name designers are brought in to introduce high concepts and create a new shopping experience. We look at some of the biggest, best and most unusual flagship stores from around the world.
Apple, New York
Apple has always had a very stripped down aesthetic and approach to store design, but Apple’s New Manhattan flagship store has really made its mark with this glass entrance cube. Not only has it quickly become the 5th most photographed building in Manhattan, but it’s also the location for plenty of news coverage whenever a new Apple product is announced thanks to the huge queues of Apple fans that gather outside days before it’s available.
Louis Vuitton, Rome
This incredible flagship store opened last year in what was an old cinema, and the theatricals of the original building remain. Designed by Peter Marino, this impressive space is dominated by a winding staircase and even has its own 19 seat cinema and a library filled with books about Italian design. The space is airy and the products are scattered over three floors, making this a pleasant space to buy your next set of branded luggage.
Thought it only existed for two years, Mattel’s attempt to break Barbie into the Chinese market was an admirable effort that didn’t skimp on expense. This huge pink tower was filled with Barbie products and perks including a spa, a Barbie café and even a design centre for little girls to create their own ideal Barbie outfits. This flagship store presented itself as more like a princesses’ dream day out than a shop.
FAO Schwarz, New York
Just next to the Apple Store is one of the most famous toy shops in the world, whose dreamlike design (including famous features such as the giant playable piano, made famous by Tom hanks in Big, and living ‘toy soldiers’ at the door) makes it a top destination for tourists visiting NYC. Schwarz was redesigned in 2011 to include an incredible atrium lined with 80,000 LED lights and a neon tinged “FAO Schweetz” candy bar for sugar loving children.
Christian Dior, Tokyo
This purpose built tower is a jumble of neon and mirrors inside, but what really impresses is the outside of the building, a sleek and chic look that is created by two outside layers to make the building look like a beautiful object, just like Christian Dior’s high end clothes.
Puma City, Various
One of the most innovative flagship stores out there, Puma City consists of 24 shopping containers that contain a retail store and a bar over three stories. The store can be quickly transported and moved to the next location, and the store has been built all around the world, from Boston to Stockholm. It’s a tough yet elegant design, that perfectly captures the message of the sports brand.
Ann Demeulemeester, Seoul
Flagship stores are a great opportunity to make your store stand out amongst a crowded street, and boutique designer Ann Demeulemeester has gone for a completely bold and striking design to catch the eye of passersby. As a patch of nature within a huge urban sprawl, this flagship boutique sends the message that the brand is different from the norm.
Alex is a writer for KSF Global, an international retail design company.
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