We’ve all seen stores like this. Boutiques with fewer items of clothing for sale than you might pack for a weekend at your parents’ house. I rarely buy anything at these shops, I can’t afford to, but I always go in. I do this not because I am a glutton for punishment, but because many of these shops are not only about the beautiful and finely crafted clothing that is for sale, but also reconceptualizing the very basics of retail. The Australian fashion brand Alquema has just opened a space designed by Loopcreative that embodies that search for the ultimate retail experience as an experimental design not for the merchandise, but for its presentation.
It took listening to someone philosophize about food preparation for me to understand the innovation that occurs in these sorts of specialty stores. Grant Achatz, chef at the Chicago restaurant Alinea, has garnered international attention and acclaim for the progressive and experimental cuisine he produces. In the series Chef’s Table, Achatz revealed that what drives him isn’t necessarily perfection, although it’s difficult to imagine him allowing for anything less, but rather pushing the boundaries not only of the food but the entirety of the dining experience. During the show he expressed frustration with being bound by the sizes and shapes that were produced by plate manufacturers – in effect allowing them to dictate the form and space required for his food.
When hanging clothing in a store, nothing more is needed than a horizontal bar. While that may be all that is fundamentally necessary, the questions that the Loopcreative asked were: what is the best way to display the garments, and how might they reinvent the concept of hanging in order to achieve that?
It turns out they didn’t have to range in to the bizarre in order to let go of the traditional uprights and horizontal crossbar. But it wasn’t because they were unwilling to defy convention. The sculptural steel piece that was designed was rejected by nearly half a dozen builders who said it was not possible to create. The team at Loopcreative didn’t let that stop them. Instead, they turned to 3D modeling to break the shape into 15 component parts that could be fabricated using their subcontractor’s pipe bending machine. Before even getting to this stage, however, they had to be able to show their design to their client. For this, they used renders created in 3DS Max and turned to 3D Printing Studios to create a 3D printed model of their idea in nylon.
The dynamic and fluid form leans out and offers a view of the hanging garments that is not aggressive, but rather suggestive. Rather than sitting back inside of a rectangular space, they float before the customer as more than body coverings, taking on the presence of the creative and artistic pieces that they are. 3D modeling allows designers working on projects such as this to not only produce hyper-realistic renderings to express their unique and boundary pushing ideas to clients, but to more easily bring those innovative concepts out of the ether of ideas and into the world. The experiment was so successful that the director of Loopcreative, Rod Faucheux, had a miniature version of the rack reproduced to sit as an object of art on his desk.
This deceptively utilitarian clothing rack helps to advance the frontier of retail space by refusing to accept traditional forms and re-examining how the environment could best support the product, not how the product would have to be compromised in order to fit a pre-conceived environment. Discuss in the Loopcreative forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Architecture and Design]