Australian fashion-house Dion Lee has opened its first Melbourne store in Emporium, a boutique designed by Kelvin Ho, architect and creative director at Akin Creative, a firm that became all too familiar with the Dion Lee brand after designing their Sydney store. The new Dion Lee shop is outfitted dynamic and well-lit display units, lines that project a sense of movement and reflective materials intended to entice.
Simplicity is a cornerstone of the design, and the bare contours of that simplistic structure are filled with elements that hint and intone, rather than declare outright, a retro futuristic appeal. "The design responds to the refined site context by introducing an element of luxury that is balanced with the raw and industrial. The play of geometric form & reflectivity is an important part of the spatial experience." Ho explained to KNSTRCT.
Confines of the space are filled with mirrors, chrome, concrete floors, cinderblock walls, exposed air ducts, and zig-zagging transparent divides arranged in obtuse and abstruse angles. The interior is not gigantic but an amusement park hall of mirrors effect is combined with a carnivalesque maze layout that, when taking colors and lighting and materials into account, creates a personalized mystique sets Dion Lee in a category all its own. Akin’s less-is-more mentality is matched by lead architect Kelvin Ho’s acute talent of filling out the store with just the right effects and materials to really give a unique shopping experience. The “less” in terms of design translates into a “more” in terms of psychological appeal.
In view of this, the store is by no means overdone. Quite contrarily, it’s what’s left unsaid, undefined, un-designed, that forms an implicative subtext whereby a futuristic appeal is inferred. The luxury that Dion Lee obviously champions is measured against an architectural half-completedness, rendering the retail outlet an intentionally fabricated construction site that is more “20 minutes into the future” than “midtown Melbourne.” The distinctly urban feel to the interior bares heavily on shoppers’ impression, offsetting their senses with aspects of awe and wonder that entice and delight--and that delight is crucial from a stylistic and aesthetic viewpoint as much as a sales and marketing viewpoint.
The simplicity of the design inherents a flawlessness to the design, by virtue of its minimalism. Every part--and there’s not many--accomplishes a function that is readily apparent and essential to a bare, raw functionality. Transparent dividers compartmentalize the departments while mimicking, within the store, the traditionally storefront display cases that are meant to catch the attention of passersby and draw them indoors for a closer look. The mirroring, and the ultra-thin lights placed under the chrome, light up the clothing displays with a nice sheen that communicates the luxury quality of Dion Lee products. The leather jackets and the blouses and the dresses are “floating” in this ethereal light as they sit privy to buyers’ eyes and wallets. The chrome is a nice lighting element, its color reflecting that of the concret floors and walls while literally “reflecting” the lights interspersed throughout the store.
The beauty of Akin’s design is that so much is implied with such a simplistic framework, so much communicated without the elaborate grandeur that it is often taken for granted as necessary for artistically-inclined interior design. In one sense the design is not aesthetic at all: this is not art for art’s sake, this is art for sales sake; and it works. There’s an appeal existing apart from any marketing perspective, but still, it’s nice to see the economic viability of the humanities, the application of creativity towards marketing and franchising. Hollywood may be lampooned for this very thing, but look at what a spectacular retail outlet the same basic creative-marketing fusion has lent the world of interior design. It can’t be all that bad.
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