DesignOffice’s latest project, Mastani, is a retail experience that creates the perfect environment for the serious shopper.
November 19th, 2020
Mastani, on High Street, Armadale offers a discreet view of the fashion label from the street. Perspex sheets with a burnished edges frame the garments that hang in the window. Inspired by the fabrics represented in the store — sourced from Italy and India, and many of which are from handlooms — there’s a strong, confident and feminine sense to both the clothing and the fit-out. “There’s a play of both strength and beauty,” says designer Mark Simpson, co-director of DesignOffice, who collaborated with Mastani owner and designer, Kudrat Makkar, and creative agency Ortolon.
Creating an experience for those who enter the narrow-fronted store was at the forefront of the minds of all those who contributed to creating this understated fit-out. “It’s a relatively long and narrow store (4 x 25 metres), so we treated the spaces as a series of ‘capsules’ by controlling the sight lines,” says Simpson, who worked closely with co-director Damien Mulvihill. “It’s more akin to an enfilade with four salons, each one having its own function.”
Named after an Indian princess, Mastani showcases slow, hand-crafted fashion with limited sizes in store, as well as a made-to-measure service. “We aim to avoid wastage and make only what’s required,” says Suzi Kyriakidis, retail operations and marketing manager, wearing an intricate woven silk jacquard jacket created from a handloom. “It can take months to weave, and generally the fabrics act as a starting point for Kudrat.”
The interpretation of the fashion, as well as the spaces, is clearly evident once past the front door. As with the fabrics, the materials and hues selected for this fit-out are elegant and understated. Oak parquetry appears on the floors and a series of pale pink beams loosely defines each salon or capsule. Although appearing as structural, these beams were added to create the required spaces. In the first two areas, a scalloped and acoustically treated ceiling forms an extended ‘welcome mat’. There’s a sense of calm, assisted by the carefully mixed fragrances that emanate throughout.
Unlike most retail fit-outs, which have a clear point-of-sale, at Mastani it’s partially concealed to one side of the second salon. A cantilevered concrete wall beautifully wraps around the till and small office, creating more of a boudoir effect than a store. “We saw each space being more about creating a mood. We will often display five to 10 garments at any one time. Each piece needs to ‘breathe’,” says Kyriakidis.
As one moves to the rear of Mastani, there’s a subtle shift to a more domestic environment, with customised credenzas made from oak and marble (also created by DesignOffice). At the end of the ‘journey’ is an almost private lounge, with a sofa designed by Ross Gardam and a Scape chair by Grant Featherston from the early 1960s. A singular steel rack is continually changing as Kyriakidis and the staff select suitable pieces for clients to try on. “We inherited the building’s relatively low ceilings, which in some ways provided a constraint, but in other ways delivered a sense of intimacy by the time you reach the end of the store,” says Simpson.
Although the width of the store is only four metres, the wall treatments and displays suggest something more generous. Clothes are carefully displayed against either polished plastered walls or pale pink curtains. The colour scheme is recessive, including pale lilac and soft muddy greens.
In spite of its size, there’s a generosity in the store, with a lounge large enough to entertain — or, in this case, make clients comfortable — and change rooms that are much larger than expected. These include mirrors, shelves and even a comfortable armchair. “People who come into this place don’t want to feel restrained. Trying on these garments needs to have that space to enjoy on their own,” says Kyriakidis.
Just when you think the ‘journey’ is complete, Kyriakidis opens a door between the two dressing areas to revel an office, kitchen and storeroom. “It’s not just about what the customers experience, but also how staff operate,” she adds.
DesignOffice could have punctuated the spaces with considerably more fixtures and fittings. Instead, as with their other retail and commercial fit-outs, there’s a sense of order and purpose at every turn, whether it’s an angled mirror to accentuate certain areas or to draw one’s attention to the most important feature, the Mastani clothes and accessories. “Kudrat studied architecture before entering fashion. That synergy between architecture and fashion was always going to be there,” adds Simpson.
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