The cosmetics company's in-house store design team revamps a New York boutique
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 4/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
In the world of beauty, retail design can have an enormous impact on a company's brand positioning, sometimes as great an impact as the actual product being proferred. But making a distinctive visual statement without fighting the merchandise is always a delicate balance. When the offerings are as vibrant as MAC Cosmetics—think Russian Red lipstick and Electric Eel eye shadow—the challenge only increases. Luckily, the makeup company is no novice at experimentation: This is the maverick concern that bypassed the usual supermodels to name drag queen RuPaul the First Face of MAC in 1994.
To transform a six-year-old New York boutique—a 1,200-square-foot SoHo storefront with dated glass and wrought-iron fixtures and traditional hardwood floors—MAC's vice president of global store design, Régis Péan, devised a bolder and less conventional aesthetic. An array of organic, sculptural forms and skinlike materials were used, explains Péan, to "relate to the body"—starting with a clear, poured-resin floor that gives the sensation of walking on jelly. Specially formulated amber-colored polyurethane countertops, which prove surprisingly supple to the touch, are topped by pewter-tinted display surfaces that have a spongy, almost fleshy feel.
While Péan and his team gave primacy to tactile experience, the space packs a lot of visual punch as well. The pewter display surfaces are furthermore notable for their sculptural presence, created with advanced 3-D animation technology. The sinuous topographies afford customers views of all products—in all hues—on each display island from any point in the store. The freestanding islands, which grant more access to products than would a conventional counter, are entirely modular: Cabinets and hardware-free drawers below can be easily swapped or entire units combined to reconfigure the sales floor. "Customers walk away with an emotional experience because the design engages their senses of both sight and touch," Péan says.
Some of his most aesthetically intriguing gestures involve the revealing of inner layers. The rigid lightweight foam used to create the display surfaces can be glimpsed beneath the pewter polyurethane finish. And ribbons of translucent white acrylic peel off the resin floor to expose a subfloor of stainless steel, then twist sideways to wall-off two consulting rooms—a clever design argument that beauty is, after all, more than skin deep.