CULTURED MAGAZINE

THE ART OF THE FASHION FLAGSHIP (AND THE FOUR ARCHITECTS GETTING IT RIGHT)

by John Glendall. Photograph of Acne Studios Seoul by Annabel Elston. April/May 2019

“We don’t actually need shops anymore,” says Sophie Hicks of her work designing highly-acclaimed retail environments around the world. The London-based architect is responsible for the spaces of an impressive range of blue-chip clients, including Paul Smith, Yohji Yamamoto, Acne Studios and Chloé, but with luxury brands seeking out her architectural imprimatur, she has taken a measured approach to these commissions.

“It’s so much more convenient to look for clothes online and have them delivered to your house,” she says, explaining why she creates destinations that are more about conveying the essence of a brand than offering endless racks of inventory. In her work with Acne Studios, for example, Hicks wanted to create the impression of Sweden, where the brand and its founder, Jonny Johansson, are based—but she needed to construct that in Manhattan’s West Village, and in the Cheongdam district of Seoul.

“I didn’t really know Sweden at all before I started with Acne Studios,” she admits. In order to familiarize herself, she spent several weeks in the Scandinavian nation walking through neighborhoods, visiting museums, going to restaurants and shops and, perhaps most importantly, spending time with Johansson.

In Seoul, she designed a new building from the ground up, with its concrete structure referencing what she calls the “groundedness of the Swedes.” The inside, meanwhile, replicates the light qualities— “very cool, very even”—of the distinctive Swedish landscape. Sun filters through the translucent panels of the façade, while supplemental light is concealed behind a polycarbonate ceiling, making a cool, even distribution of light throughout the day—“very much like Swedish light.”

Hicks, who early in her career was an editor at Vogue, sees value in new stores, but, as she cautions, “the environment of the store is so important. It has to be something customers can’t get online.”

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