1 Esprit stores, in Germany, by Sottsass Associati (1980s)
In the 1980s, Memphis took the world by storm. The Italian postmodernist movement brought into being a series of furniture, lighting and objects in sculptural assemblages of various shapes, colours and patterns. Led by Ettore Sottsass, the expressive style came to define the boldness of the era. At the same time, the German clothing company Esprit was developing its promotional palette, with attention-grabbing ads photographed by Oliviero Toscani (who would go on to create controversial compaigns for Benetton, another brand that flourished in that decade) and of-the-moment shops in Cologne, Dusseldorf, Zurich and elsewhere, designed by Sottsass Associati. Replete with cylindrical and zigzag columns, collage-like display shelving and stippled surfaces, the interiors went hand in hand with the vibrant apparel on display.
2 The Muji stores, worldwide (1980s onward)
No-name brands have been around since the ’70s, but Muji, which began in Tokyo in the 1980s, has leapt well beyond most others to encompass every aspect of home life, from bamboo chopstick holders and aluminum paperclips to clothes, furniture – even cars and prefab homes. It’s the Ikea of Japan, though Muji rarely discloses the designers behind its products (Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa being exceptions). Its retail environments are also inspiring showpieces of pragmatic organization, with blond wood on the walls and floors and clear acrylic shelving for displaying products of every scale in a muted palette that rarely involve goes beyond white, black, grey, beige, and sometimes navy. Muji’s international expansion is relatively recent. Its first shop in Europe opened in London in 1991, and last year, Muji arrived in Canada, at the corner of Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas streets.
3 Calvin Klein Collections Store, in New York, by John Pawson (1995)
John Pawson is renowned as an exacting minimalist, his architecture and interiors exuding a monastery-like simplicity. And Calvin Klein tailors his womenswear to be at once essential and ethereal. The Calvin Klein shop in New York that John Pawson created in the 1990s combines their sympatico sensibilities. Here is Pawson’s own description of the interior, situated in an old bank building: “the immediate impression is of a calm visual field: an immaculate expanse of honey-coloured Yorkstone flags, thick white walls with tight openings and benches that appear variously to float or to extrude from the floor.”
4 Bergdorf Goodman, in New York, Yabu Pushelberg (1999)
One of the most successful interior design firms in the world, Yabu Pushelberg started out in Toronto, where founders George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg designed the first Le Chateau and Club Monaco shops. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that they began to work outside their home city – branching out to Taiwan and New York – and it wasn’t until this seminal project that they became a hot entity. When Bergdorf Goodman asked the firm to transform the basement of its Fifth Avenue flagship into a beauty bar, the duo delivered with an elegant interior in a diaphanous palette of white glossy surfaces and frosted glass that made elegant curves a feature of the contemporary setting. “When you go back to it today,” Yabu told Business of Fashion a couple years back, “they didn’t change it. It’s still there.”
5 Prada flagship, in New York, by OMA (2001)
When Rem Koolhaas’s design for the main Prada store in New York opened in 2001, Azure contributing editor Beth Kapusta described the Dutch architect’s cool, intellectual reinvention of the retail experience. “It gives a whole new slant to the commodity part of Vitruvius’s ‘commodity, firmness and delight’ as architecture itself becomes branding and retail marketing, too.” The SoHo boutique can claim a number of firsts, including being the first North American project for Koolhaas’s revered firm, OMA. The 2,000-square-metre store also goes down as one of the most expensive flagships ever designed, checking out at US$40 million. The shopping experience is theatrical, consisting of a sparse architectural promenade and a sensual zebra wood wave that serves as a grand staircase, an open theatre and fashion runway. In Kapusta’s assessment, “the space foregrounds the architecture and relegates retail to the basement.”
6 Chanel Ginza, in Tokyo, by Peter Marino (2004)
Coco Chanel had a reputation as a rebel, so it’s fitting that the fashion conglomerate would enlist the services of bad-boy Peter Marino. The leather-clad and tattooed New York architect cut his teeth at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, George Nelson and I.M. Pei before the 106-year old brand invited him in the early aughts to design its boutiques worldwide. For the Chanel shop in Ginza, he designed the building tower itself – including its animated LED facade that nightly projects classic Chanel patterns – and its mesmerizing interiors that take glass to a new level. Since Marino’s start with Chanel, he has gone on to design hundreds of other outlets for luxury labels like Dior, Louis Vuitton and Zegna.
7 Fifth Avenue Apple Store, in New York, by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (2006)
In 2006, Apple and architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson unveiled a 32-foot glass cube on New York’s Fifth Avenue. A marvel of engineering, this dramatic entrance to the subterranean shop is now the stuff of legend. Inside, a sculptural glass staircase – patented by Steve Jobs, from treads to structure, and now seen in over 40 locations – spirals down into a clean, minimalist space that lets the products take centre stage on those trademark super-sized wood tables. That is, if you can see them past the hordes of people that the cube draws in each day.
8 Camper shop, in Milan, by Jaime Hayon (2007)
Since its founding in 1975, shoe manufacturer Camper has grown into an international brand, thanks in no small part stores bursting with enticing, often flamboyant interiors. Although all are unique and vary wildly from city to city, they share a playfulness devised by a who’s who of recognizable designers, including the Bouroullecs, Shigeru Ban, and Nendo. For a Milan location in 2007, Jaime Hayon filled the store with his whimsical furnishings, from multi-legged tables to throne-like chairs – turning the boutique into a showcase for his opulent style just as he was emerging onto the international design scene.
9 Starbucks, in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, by Kengo Kuma (2012)
The Seattle-based coffee purveyor seems to have conquered every high-traffic corner of the globe. And so, with over two million visitors each year, the ancient Shinto shrine of Dazaifu Tenman-gū was a highly desirable location. Tokyo’s Kengo Kuma was brought in to deliver a culturally sensitive space that treats the ubiquitous branding with restraint. The interior is webbed with thin wooden sticks, inspired by the wooden structure of the shrine, that extend in various lengthes from the entrance. A zigzagging grey banquet runs the distance of one wall, reinforcing a feeling of fluidity in the long, narrow space. The other furniture is sparse, but inviting, with natural wood bistro table tops and subtle recessed lighting at the bottom of the walls.
10 Louis Vuitton at Selfridges, in London, by Yayoi Kusama (2012)
Fine artist Yayoi Kusama is known for paintings, sculptures and spaces – usually oversized and boldly coloured – blanketed with a pattern of dots in different sizes. In 2012, she channeled this love of dots into a surprisingly refined space for luxury retailer Louis Vuitton. The pop-up shop within London’s Selfridges department store featured Kusama’s beloved pumpkin shape, expanded to monumental scale in sheet metal and perforated with orderly rows of circular holes. Inside, the dot pattern repeated on the floor, while smaller pumpkin shapes served as chandelier, display tables and seating. With its white-painted inner surfaces, the shop gave the impression of stepping inside a luminous and very “Kusama” pop-art bubble.