A brand communicates in many different ways, in advertising, through sponsorship and public relations, but its major channel is one only: the boutique. Which is where it gets down to the work of doing business, selling its products to its customers. Walking into a boutique takes you into another world, one in which you find yourself fully immersed in the brand image and approach. Once you're inside, the brand has a unique opportunity to talk to you with visual, audio and olfactory signals in a complete, multi-media experience.
LUXOS spoke to Fulvio Giraldi from studio GAA, based in Florence, to find out more about an important factor in design communication: creating a boutique. (In the photo below, Fulvio Giraldi).
"How do you translate a brand concept into architecture? That's a million dollar question!" Fulvio Giraldi has been working on new design and architecture for top fashion brands for over a decade; today the studio also has offices in Berlin and Los Angeles. "It's the most important part of the job. Usually the brief contains little information on brand concept and virtually nothing as regards architectural guidelines. Often it is up to the designer to express the brand, using atmosphere, materials, the psychological approach, all factors that can be very subjective, and in any case, a lifestyle brand is often rather eclectic and difficult to encapsulate in a brief. I often use natural materials such as timber, in combination with technological features. This generates a contrast between the toughness of nature and the cool, friendly face of technology."
And how will technology change the boutique? The store of the future could look very different. Giraldi says, "The store experience could incorporate elements of an on-line boutique. In the United States, there are scanning cabins that capture the forms of your body, so you can view yourself wearing the various colour options of a particular garment, for example. This makes it possible for small boutiques to provide a complete service, even if stocks are limited, combining the pleasure of boutique shopping, in which you can see and touch the product, with the convenience of on-line shopping."
Fulvio Giraldi has done a lot of design work for Guess, in particular the headquarters in Lugano. We asked him how he expressed the Guess aesthetic in their boutiques. (In the photo below, the Guess building, Lugano).
"Guess is a brand in constant evolution. We have used a lot of natural materials, timber, in combination with technological features, creating a contrast between the toughness of nature and technology."
Is there a brand that, in your opinion, is doing something interesting in the field of boutique design?
"Prada works at a very high level, working on materials and the modelling of space, and commissioning flagships from architects such as Rem Koolhaas (New York) and Herzog & de Meuron (the Prada Epicenter in Tokyo Aoyama).
How did you begin working in this sector?
"As I was working in Florence, I was close to many European brands in the 1990s, which at that time had their base in city, such as Calvin Klein, Guess and others. Today, most of them have left Florence and moved their headquarters elsewhere, but those initial contacts set the ball rolling."
An architect such as Fulvio Giraldi spends a lot of time travelling, but a recent design saw the studio working back in their native Florence: the Museo Leonardo da Vinci, dedicated to the Renaissance painter, scientist and architect. Their design catapults visitors into the fascinating world of this genius, interpreted in black and white, with models, mirror-texts, and evocative lighting appliances that recall Leonardo's flying machines. What better example of a universally-recognized brand could there be than the man from Vinci?
In the photo below, the Guess store in Piazza San Babila, Milan:
Below, the Manila Grace store, Bologna:
Below, staff at Studio Giraldi Associati Architetti:
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