Renowned for its global design-led approach to retail architecture, 29-year-old Australian skincare brand Aesop has been enjoying rampant expansion of late. With its idiosyncratic stores now in over 14 countries worldwide (and counting), Aesop eschews conventional branding and advertising and instead chooses to communicate its core values of respect for community, environment, culture and history through its store design and experience: “We believe unequivocally that well-considered design improves our lives,” states the brand in its mission statement.
Having collaborated with an impressive host of design studios over the years—Studio Ilse, Vincenzo de Cotiis, and Schemata are just a few—several of Aesop’s most recent boutique openings come courtesy of Oslo- and New York-based heavyweight practice Snøhetta.
“We don't just design for them, we design with them,” says Snøhetta’s lead interior architect Peter Girgis, who recently completed Aesop stores in Singapore and Düsseldorf. “It is a true collaborative effort with inspired and engaged people who want to create interesting and sustainably beautiful spaces.”
Snøhetta, whose other recent projects include the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the reconstruction of Times Square, designed its first store for Aesop back in 2014—a small boutique on Oslo's Prinsensgate. Stores in Berlin and Raffles City followed the next year, while 2016 has already seen the opening of Snøhetta-designed Aesop boutiques in Singapore and Dusseldorf with another Oslo outpost opening just this week. As with every Aesop destination the unique interiors draw heavily upon their surroundings for inspiration.
For instance, while the newly opened Aesop ION in Singapore commemorates Orchard Road’s original incarnation as a nutmeg plantation with mace-colored walls and thin timber battens hanging from the ceiling like an upside-down forest, the new crescent-shaped store in Düsseldorf serves as an extension of the plaza in which it sits; stepped Douglas Fir shelves circle a monolithic concrete sink that takes center stage in the space encouraging people to gather around it like a fountain in plaza.
“Context is everything,” underscores Girgis. “From Landscape design to architecture to interior design; without the understanding and informed knowledge of the context in which you are working in you run the risk of designing for the sake of designing. Each Aesop space reflects on the local neighborhood the historic culture or potentially the discovery of some of the original details of the building.”