Word on the street is that independent fashion brands are investing in bricks and mortar once again. A tour through Elka Collective’s new store by Aplin Creative is visually compelling proof that the reports are true.
August 7th, 2019
In late 2018, the disruptive American cosmetics giant Glossier opened its first permanent New York City showroom. The sleek, conceptual space took the brand’s signature Millennial pink aesthetic off the ‘grid’ and into reality. Part shop, part content platform, the space highlights that the future of in-store retail is more reliant on design than ever. After all, as we seek to constantly add to our digital highlight reel, retailers would be wise to invest in creating visually compelling experiences.
Back here in Australia, amidst the low overheads and high-profit margins afforded by e-commerce, Melbourne fashion label Elka Collective is demonstrating just how viable a design-driven approach to retail might be. The brand’s first flagship, designed by Chris Aplin of interior design practice Aplin Creative, opened at the end of 2018 on the Windsor end of Melbourne’s Chapel Street. It’s a space designed to be as emblematic of the Elka Collective DNA as possible: timeless, relaxed and luxurious.
Aplin, who expresses a belief that “flagship stores offer customers a brand experience that simply cannot be expressed solely through digital platforms”, was brought in by Elka Collective creative consultant, Courtney Price. “Our goal was to create a curated destination for our customer to experience Elka Collective as more than just a fashion label,” explains Price. “A retail flagship gives a brand a visual home, tone and feeling,” she says. “We wanted an opportunity to present the brand exactly as we see it.”
For an independent retailer like Elka Collective to take itself into the tangible, offline world is arguably a sign that physical touchpoints are still as desirable as ever. But the new reality is that customers are now equipped to capture visual records of their experiences. Images of beautiful spaces are inevitably shared online, notes Price, meaning there is a unique requirement for interior designers to capture a brand’s visual language in a way that is at once timeless and impactful.
Aplin has managed to achieve this through an assemblage of natural materials in earthy tones such as sandstone, granite and timber. Lime render to the walls creates a delicate backdrop for the clothing, while Australian Blackwood timber brings a sturdiness to the space. Terracotta tiles reclaimed from the roofs of abandoned historic buildings add a sense of history. “In it all, we looked to capture the artisanal, human touch that is central to Elka Collective’s design ethos,” explains Aplin.
This is a space that is dominated by its materiality but also, explains Aplin, by its balance of opulence and restraint. Premium highlights include a geometrically composed chandelier by Australian designer Ross Gardam, which hangs over a Brutalist style coffee table speckled in subtle, neutral shades. At the store’s rear, three curvilinear entranceways to rich, timber-clad dressing rooms create a visual depth and focus point.
Nestled at the store’s centre is a collection of display cases and benches showcasing accessories and homewares; these distil Elka Collective’s minimalist aesthetic into a picture-perfect tableau. The curated mix of objects not only builds on Elka Collective’s visual language, but it also reflects the “sophisticated eye for detail” of the brand’s customer. “What was left out of the space was just as important as what was put in,” Aplin notes. A guiding sentiment to remember it seems, be it in worlds real and digital.
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