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The Real and the Imagined in Retail

For new liquor retail salon The Proof Flat, HASSELL emphasised engagement by designing a residential-style space for a curious fictional character in an unexpected part of town.

The Real and the Imagined in Retail

Proof & Company Spirits is well known in Singapore for its bar concepts 28 HongKong Street and Manhattan Bar. Now the company has opened its first bricks-and-mortar retail salon for the sale of spirits, bar tools, bar pantry items and books on cocktails and spirits. The use of the space, which is located away from Singapore’s prime retail zones on the second floor of a 1940s shophouse on HongKong Street, extends beyond sales transactions to education, events and workshops.

The intent, says HASSELL Principal Matthew Shang (who worked with fellow HASSELL Principal Paul Semple on the design), was to make use of the location to establish a place of discovery and intrigue. “This type of ‘guerrilla’ retail presence was initiated by Comme de Garcons in the late ’90s. I still remember vividly trawling Chinatown to find the store. It also makes tremendous commercial sense in terms of using a sub-prime space rather than a street front retail shop front,” says Shang.

The residential theme, which was conceptualised by Crafty and developed by HASSELL with John Marangos of Trunk (for styling and art direction), created what Shang describes as a “relaxed, product-light approach that is more about engagement than mass sales.” Products are presented in a rich domestic setting where elements call up the personality of the fictional resident EC Proof, as well as aspects of the building in which it sits.

Some of the building’s original hardware was incorporated, and new features were added to build on the sense of the period. Customised furniture pieces were crafted in Indonesia with gold stainless steel and dark timbers. Lighting was controlled and screening was introduced to create a sense of private intimacy and mystery.

The interior, he suggests, “asks the guest to really interrogate this mysterious personality. Who are the people on the wall? What’s their relationship? How did he get this apartment – was it inherited?”

So how would Shang describe the value of this kind of imaginary environment in retail and hospitality? “There is a series of basic elements that must be ‘ticked’,” he says. “In a hotel room, it’s a bed and shower. In a retail space it’s retail display, storage and a point of sale. But it’s how you extend these functional elements beyond the everyday and into a dimension that gives it something special… No more generic bottle shop, but a journey for the aspiring connoisseur.”

Photography by EK Yap (courtesy of HASSELL)

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