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Seoul’s adidas flagship store offers a constantly evolving experience to repeat visitors

Situated in the dead centre of the hippest part of town, adidas Seoul is challenging how a fashion name sits within an established street scene. Various Associates has refocused street attention on the store’s second level with a facade that juts out.

Seoul’s adidas flagship store offers a constantly evolving experience to repeat visitors

This is the trendiest of spots and, while the architectural images of the store show empty streets and clear facades, the reality is a constant thrum of pedestrians and a food and clothing street market that renders the traditional street exposure moot.

Taking their inspiration from Korean pergolas, the facade is realised as a series of angled and straight parallel metal slats that conceptually mimic the adidas stripe. The installation is also a light work that relays programmable colours across the surface.

“The new facade design language extends the block outline of traditional Korean architecture while seamlessly blending in with the facade of the original building. The concise and clean layers with dynamic lighting effects emerge from the lively streets as a pure and dazzling scenery of Myeongdong,” says Dongzi Yang, Various Associates co-founder and project lead.

Above this a glass wall presents the iconic mountain logo (the three diagonal stripes signifying sport and tech) out to the street on both sides, while another layer of lit metal slats are seen within. This logo is also at street level, where silver corrugated walls define the space that is rarely seen. Moving higher up the building facade, a series of black stripes form geometric patterns on the windows between block areas of deep grey.

Internally the rhythm is duplicated with high selling items on the first floor and adidas by Stella McCartney by the changerooms so underwear can be discreetly purchased. The City Shop and Seoul Lab, which were co-created with the adidas retail link team, offer services exclusive in the city flagship. Customers can also find special limited editions of Seoul and DIY customized products on this level. The changerooms are stadium reminiscent in adidas blue, with adidas club, water stations and staff locker areas similarly defined.

And while the designers have played around with the adidas ceiling track system universal to all stores, with the addition of triangular trusses similar to stadiums, and have angled the walls to pick up on the coloured lights of the facade, the lower floor still looks just like a really big sporting shoe store. Not bad, but not brilliant either, except for one startling and inspired addition.

The floor beneath the stairs is a touch activated digital image. As the surface is stepped on, changes register in the image. At floor level is looks like an abstract, but when viewed from above the floor can become crazy patterns or graphics or a street view that sends the whole store topsy-turvy, with customers appearing to walk up trees and float in the air. Very clever indeed. 

Related: Hyundai Seoul: The largest department store in South Korea by Burdifilek

Life gets increasingly interesting on the upper floors where the designers are responding to more specific target audiences. The collaboration designer area is fast paced and dynamic, and the current collaboration with Jeremy Scott has given the designers impetus to let loose with creative mayhem including a Manga-like suspended version of the adidas trefoil logo (the three petaled logo signifying originals), white and metallic lace-like boxes, screens, seats and tables over electric blue carpet and movie theatre signage.

“The patterns on the centre bench are derived from traditional Korean patterns, which are recreated by artists and presented with a metallic texture, achieving an intersection of tradition and modernity. The little billboards on the column are inspired by vintage theatre signs, and the letters on which can be flexibly replaced according to different themes, paying tribute to the street spirit of Adidas Originals,” says Dongzi Yang.

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Traditional Korean symbols are similarly infused and interwoven throughout the project: “As a way to honour local cultural elements, various traditional patterns embellish the space, such as perforated screens with custom traditional patterns and a laminated glass tabletop casting playful shadows,” says Yang.

There is also perhaps the wildest carpet envisaged with a riotous jumble of Seoul and adidas imagery exploding below refined leather sofas and modernist lounge chairs. “Various Associates, partnered with adidas to extract local Korean elements and blend them with adidas brand personality, creating a ‘home of sport’ with closer connections and deeper resonance with local customers,” adds Yang. Seen again in the changerooms and adjacent area, the wild carpet is paired with a fabulous version of the trefoil logo in blue pink and yellow neon.

adidas Seoul flagship store by Various Associates

Over in the Y-3 section where the adidas Yohji Yamamoto range is displayed everything suddenly feels sophisticated and designer. Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chairs in black leather are paired with a round grey rug, black block counter, black wall curtain and pencil thin neon signage of Yamamoto’s signature. It is austere and chic and everything Yamamoto customers desire, but it also somehow works within the whole, with even the signage reflecting artistically in the trees outside.

Tantamount to the success of this project is the integration of the layers to effectively deliver a cohesive product. To this end the various sub brands within the adidas stable have been arranged in the way a department store is addressed. That is, the customer netting products are at street level, while the more expensive products are higher up. But connecting the levels is an open invitation to aspire. It’s also a whole lot of fun once you get there.

Photography by SFAP
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adidas Seoul flagship store_73
adidas Seoul flagship store by Various Associates
adidas Seoul flagship store by Various Associates
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adidas Seoul flagship store by Various Associates
adidas Seoul flagship store by Various Associates
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