In our increasingly borderless, point-and-click world, where does the brick and mortar boutique fit into the fashion experience, particularly at the high end? "Of course they want me to present the merchandise in a beautiful way and make as many sales as possible, but it is very much now considered almost an advertising event for the brand," says Peter Marino, the head-to-toe leather wearing architect/badass. The Cornell grad who apprenticed under I.M. Pei now designs retail spaces for the likes of Chanel, Zegna, Dior, Fendi and Louis Vuitton. "The browsing aspect of retail buying is over," he continues. And what replaced it? e-Shopping, of course. "It’s almost clinical," he notes about the way that the serious spending has now moved online: "I want to see the clothes and I want to assess them and I want to see which direction fashion’s heading in." (image)
However, when people do visit a luxury boutique in-person, of every four persons that enter, only one buys anything. So if only 25% of people entering a luxury boutique actually spend money, then why stores?
After Marino's Chanel opened in Hamburg, he was flooded with emails. "Oh! Love this, love that...I loved that gold coffee table in the showroom!They were really specific," says Marino. "People never did that before." Now, with their "clinical" shopping needs taken care of on the Internet, they expect something completely different from the in-store experience: not merch but brand-y ambiance.
At Marino's Chanel flagship in London (left), the goal of corporate was that people walk out with a stiff case of the Chanel-related feelgoods. "People would go,Oh, I just came in to see it. It’s so beautiful. And you leave with a positive attitude toward the brand...[and] those four people who leave the door, hopefully all four of them want to go back, all four of them will say, God, that was a fabulous experience.”
And how do we remember it? That's where the merch itself comes in - as a way to remember how it felt to go into the store and interact with the brand. "The brand is the amusement park," Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham once observed. "The product is the souvenir."
- Lesley Scott
(image at top by Gianni Pucci via style.com)