The concept store was created in 1955 by Mary Quant, who opened her first boutique on King’s Road in London, Bazaar, selling clothing, tableware, makeup, stationery, and more. A few years later, the Italian designer Elio Fiorucci popularized the model: in 1974, he opened an immense store in Milan, Via Torino, which sold not only designer clothing but also books, records, furniture and decorative objects, among more, and included a restaurant. These pioneers were followed by other more or less successful entrepreneurs. But in major cities all over the world, the model of the concept store is imposing itself like a retail renaissance. These leisure spots, where shopping meets experience, have one distinctive feature: selectivity.
Concept stores are characterized by the fact that they showcase unknown brands, unexpected products, true gems and related activities, all selected from a unique point of view, since each concept store has its own philosophy (or should; or at least the best ones do). And the décor is on a level with the store’s ambitions. Since that is not enough, a great number of concept stores don’t live up to their promises, and they shut down within a few years. A few clothes hangers, books, decorative objects or a tea room are not enough to make a concept store last.
Reliable values and new concepts are based on a solid offer and an original viewpoint.
LN-CC, in London, resembles a spaceship and asserts itself as an “upgradeable platform” for designer brands. This extravagant spot features a bookshop, art gallery and club.
In a rawer style, LNFA in Berlin has the appearance of a vast car park with the same electric, industrial ambiance as the city itself.
Founded in 2011, the Belief concept store in Moscow brings to mind a rocker’s man-cave, a cavern of a thousand-and-one finds haunted by a myriad of skulls.
Considerably more minimalist, with an “anti-fashion” stance, La Garçonne in New York City presents its selection in an environment of white walls and bleached wood to let the products express themselves without overkill.
Much more spectacular is Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées, a concept store stretching across 6,500 m2 (69,965 ft2) in an Art Deco building that housed the National City Bank of New York during the Interwar period – and more recently a Virgin Megastore – with a well-conserved architecture laid out by the Danish architectural agency BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group).
In this one-of-a-kind store are no fewer than 600 brands of fashion, accessories and beauty – including a number of exclusivities –, a delicatessen, restaurants, bars, caterers, confectioners, a vintner’s... And an impressive sunglasses department! Indeed, most concept stores proffer glasses brands, but usually in an incidental way. Conversely, Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées presents spectacular merchandising that could provide inspiration for opticians. Opticians should look into these concepts to renew their own approaches.
The “concept store” should not be confused with the “flagship store”: the first is a selective, multi-brand store, while the second is a singlebrand store of which the content is presented strictly to promote the brand name on the sign.
Here, then, are some “multi-brand” – therefore legitimate, interesting – concept stores to discover or rediscover throughout the world: