Before designing for a retail store – or any client, for that matter – it’s always advisable to be familiar with the brand’s particular aesthetic foundation. For a brand like Acne, for instance – a Stockholm-based fashion house known for taking cues from photography, art, architecture and contemporary culture – an over-the-top, embellished style of architecture would be a gross imposition on their well-established minimalist designs.
And so, when it came to creating the concept for Acne’s new Sydney store, H&E Architects dove into the extremes of minimalism. The resulting store is a slick, rounded space with filled with reflective surfaces and a distinct lack of harsh corners.
Rather than attempt to toe the line of existing retail design typologies, H&E took their inspiration from the brand itself, which already had several flagship stores to look to in Stockholm, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris and Los Angeles. H&E had already worked on three other Acne projects throughout Australia, which inevitably led to a profound intimacy with and knowledge of the client. Their Sydney CBD interpretation of the fashion house has been defiantly described as an “anti-retail statement that takes the fashion brand’s minimalist aesthetic to new heights”.
Upon entering, visitors are confronted by a whole lot of negative space. Specifically, a blank, stainless steel wall that runs the length of the 390-square-metre, L-shaped space, providing a logical and uncluttered path for shoppers to follow.
“In a way, this store is almost like anti-design or anti-retail,” says H&E director and project leader, Chris Grinham. “What they are selling is barely visible from the outside world. It makes a real statement about the importance of brand image over product, which is a bold move.”
More gallery than stock-filled store, Acne’s Sydney CBD store is designed as a space of “austerity and contemplation”. Mill-finish stainless steel joinery is used throughout, poured in-situ terrazzo lines the floors, and custom furniture has been made for the space by British designer Max Lamb. To ensure the detail-heaviness of the design does not go unseen, the space has been finished by a repetitive ceiling grid of 700 illuminated mushroom lighting fixtures, shipped over especially from Benoit Lalloz in Paris.