If the future of retail is creating defined brand experiences, the challenge for designers comes in fusing heritage, legacy, and mission with cutting-edge building trends. In Amsterdam, Como Park Studio knows this balance well. Their recent success with the new Levi's Flagship sets a new standard in sustainably sourced interiors with clear connection to both local culture and brand story.
Complex linked with Kenneth Jaworski, the project's lead designer, to talk about the inspiration and challenges associated with creating the new Levi's Amsterdam space.
Photo Credit: Zowie Jannink
What was the original concept for the new Amsterdam store? How did it change as you were putting the space together?
The original concept for the store was Re:Store. Maurizio Donadi came with the idea to develop a complete renewed and re-used store that would be comprised of as much found and reworked material as possible, without looking junky. A sort of re-defined "luxury".
How did you source materials? Some of it is from other Levi's projects, right?
The first point of "scavenging" was the building itself, formerly a shoe store. It had lots of material, flooring, doors, etc... on the upper floors- this we tried to use as much as possible.
Further, we used lighting from the Levi's Bread and Butter stand from July 2011 and we also used the herringbone flooring from that same stand.
That's pretty impressive. Could you run down all the "re-use" materials employed in the store?
+ The pipes used to make all the framework came from second hand sources or demolished installations. nothing was ordered.
+ The lighting used in the store was re-used from the Levi's® Bread and Butter trade fair earlier in the year.
+ The wood on the second floor was also re-sed from the same trade fair.
+ The cash desk was made from the floorboards demolished from the second floor of the building
We are the first ones to use the 90 x 90 tiles on the ground floor, produced by REFIN in Italy and with an environmentally responsible certificate.
+ All the changing room houses were made from recycled and excess wood and materials used in this project or others
+ The "denim table" is made from old doors and mounted on old church benches
+ All freestanding shelves and benches are made from church benches taken from a church in the East of The Netherlands
+ Display cabinets and carts are all second hand
+ All hanging lights in the rack and changing cabins are second hand and use savings lamps.
+ There are no signs on or in the building- therefore no use of acrylic or other such materials. Levi's® Logos are merely spray painted on the wall in 2 spots.
+ The bike sculptures are created out of old bikes welded together.
+ We've used plants and trees everywhere.
+ We've left 80% of the walls as they were.
Levi's, obviously, is a global brand. What steps were taken to connect the new store to Amsterdam and the consumer there? Cycling plays a big role in both the current Levi's line and the lifestyle of the city of Amsterdam. Are there other connecting points?
One of the most "visible" elements of the store are the fact that we reworked junked bicycles into new display items both on the wall and on the floor of the store. Amsterdam tends to "forget" about it's old bicycles and they can be found everywhere in the city, rotting away... With some welding and ingenuity, they can be made into something else, something artistic, given new life. This is what we did...clearly the Amsterdam connection is obvious.
Further, I always saw Amsterdam as a very resourceful community. It has a strong squatters movement and also a "let's make something out of what we have" mentality and over the city you see weird constructions and bikes laced with flowers and houseboats patched together.. This is how we approached the store. Naturally, it is designed from the standpoint of retail performance and accessibility, but there was a great deal of the process that was "inspired"... The mantra between Maurizio Donadi and myself became " Do that". As in, "How about this?"... " Yeah, do that". A very spontaneous, very organic process of design and visual merchandising that has resulted in a very human, friendly, un-designed store.
Tell me a little bit about Como Park, what other projects are you engaged with and what is your connection to Levi's?
Como Park is a multidisciplinary concept and design firm that focuses on Interior Architecture in different areas. In the last two years this has been a strong proportion of retail. Amidst work in hotels and restaurants, we recently completed the design of the Levi's January 2012 Bread and Butter stand and are currently working on retail projects for Onitsuka Tiger. We are also in ongoing discussions with several global brands for projects in 2012 and 2013. In addition to these we are designing a Family / children-oriented café concept for roll out in Benelux and the Interior updating of The Rembrandt Tower, a landmark 35 story high rise in Amsterdam.
It was our design work on the Red Wing Amsterdam store, a collaboration with Tenue de Nimes, that caught the eye of Maurizio. After several meetings, we realized that we had avery seamless way of working and that I could translate abstract and emotional concepts into concrete and buildable designs. We have worked together since 2010 on internal and external concepts and design for Levi's XX and Levi Strauss & Co.
How important is sustainable design to you? Where do you see recycled materials moving in interior design in the future?
Sustainable design is important to us if it is important to our client. We are very client driven, so if this is important to them and what they want to achieve, than we will use everything in our arsenal to see that this plays a role in the concept and design of a project. I try to use existing materials in a new way when we tackle a new project so as to not always build new, but this is not always possible. Sustainability is not our "calling card", so to speak, but it was really satisfying to embrace it the way we did for this particular Levi's store.
That being said, I believe that sustainability is important for the future, although it doesn't necessarily have to be as obvious as it was in this store. What is required by the Interior Architect is deep product and material knowledge, which I feel we have and constantly build on, to develop sustainable retail ideas that don't lose their power or impact for the client. I mean, for so long, sustainability meant FSB chipboard and recycled rubber flooring (amongst other things)...You would walk in a shop and go " wow, this is environmentally friendly`" That is not the future for me.
The future is creating a retail environment with great textures and materials and surfaces with no apparent "environmental friendliness", only to find out that 70% of it is reused or has no carbon footprint and the other 30% came from a store down the street that was demolished. This takes more work and more thinking, but it is the responsibility of the designer and can be ultimately very fulfilling if it succeeds. Almost every material today has a sustainable "cousin" that at its best, is a dead ringer for the "non sustainable" variant or at its least can evoke the look, feel and archetype of the "non sustainable" original. Again, it's out there, you just have to want to find it and learn about it.
Finally, what is your personal favorite part of the shop?
The upstairs denim floor. It has done away with the outdated denim wall and placed this product at a much friendlier and accessible level. Denim is very much about feel and color and texture and this allows the consumer to interact with the staff on a one to one basis and in a very intimate way over their jeans. It's working and innovative, or "rule-breaking", design that works that puts a smile on my face.