Posts tagged with "aesop":

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Aesop Creative Director Marsha Meredith on design, craft, and context-sensitive retail

Created by up-and-coming architects and designers, the distinct aesthetics of Aesop’s stores have become integral to the Australian skincare brand’s identity. Working with local craftspeople, Aesop integrates each location to its surroundings—no easy feat. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) editor Matthew Messner spoke with Marsha Meredith, creative director of Melbourne-based Aesop, who explained the ideas and process behind picking new store locations and designers, and discussed the company’s commitment to working with the community.

The Architect’s Newspaper: Could you discuss the process of finding and choosing designers for each store? What do you look for?

Marsha Meredith: We select architects not only for the excellence of their work but also their personality; their capacity to communicate and connect with us is integral to the realization of new spaces. We enjoy working with established architects and rising talents. We first worked with Frida Escobedo in 2013 for a temporary space we opened in Brooklyn, nestled in the Invisible Dog, a local art center. We had come across Frida’s work and reached out precisely because her experience lay in a more conceptual space, away from traditional retail architecture. The design she presented for Invisible Dog connected with the artistic soul of the space while preserving its humble character.

The locations of new Aesop stores also seem to be an important decision. What are some of the factors in choosing a location?

There’s no formula. Intuition plays a big role in choosing the right location, and so do serendipitous recommendations from partners—be it from architects, retailers, or restaurants. In Miami, for example, the Design District might have been a natural choice for a premium retail company, but we felt more at ease in Wynwood. It might have been the murals, the coffee at Panther, or O, Miami, the poetry festival organized by the University of Wynwood collective. We drew inspiration from the local streetscape—its buildings, its history, its people.

How do new Aesop stores tap into local crafts, trades, materials, and history?

As a company, our first consideration is always to work with what is already in place and tread lightly with respect to the past. We then allow the architects to create their original concept. Frida’s inspiration is particularly rich and fertile. In Tampa, her design engaged with the neoclassical style of the restaurant and lifestyle store Oxford Exchange, but adding a terra-cotta sink crafted by Florida-based ceramic artist John Byrd was a subtle yet distinct nod to the area’s Cuban and Spanish influences. In Coconut Grove, Frida understood the store was located in a bustling shopping space. Her concept was an interesting response to this particular setting: Drawing on the hammock as a tropical motif for repose, the relaxed design diffused an alluring calmness, letting our store become a refuge where one can rest and decompress.

What do you believe is the value added by enlisting critical designers for each store, as opposed to reproducing similar stores in each location?

Enlisting designers who are able to capture a neighborhood is the least we can do. As a retailer with a global presence, we have a responsibility to add value to the neighborhoods in which we open. We seek to weave ourselves into the fabric of the street rather than creating a discordant presence. Collaborations also nurture our own creative soul: We enjoy the original interpretations of Aesop that come through in each unique design.

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Q+A> Aesop celebrates the architects behind its stores with new website

Aesop, the Australian cult skincare brand, just released its newest project—a microsite entitled Taxonomy of Design dedicated to the architecture and design behind Aesop's stores. In addition to the company’s reputation for high-quality bath products, Aesop has created a name for itself in the design realm thanks to stores designed by the likes of Snøhetta, Ilse Crawford, Torafu, and Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Taxonomy of Design is dedicated to these spaces, showcasing the special details and ongoing themes through their stores. The digital guide also offers a set of interviews with the designers and architects behind these stores, focusing on the creative process, material selection, and the store’s context in its surroundings. AN sat down with creative director Marsha Meredith to learn more and to hear a bit about Aesop’s newest Chicago location with Norman Kelly. The Architect's Newspaper: How do you approach designing each store? What elements stay consistent and what elements change? Marsha Meredith: Each of our stores is unique. We take inspiration from neighborhoods, past and current streetscapes, and then seek to add something of value. Collaborating with architects also allows new and poetic interpretations of Aesop, conceptually and physically, through the materiality and design features. Consistency for us means remembering at all times what our stores are meant to be: Places of respite where you can thoughtfully explore our skincare formulations. How does location factor into the materials palette? Are there essential materials you include in each store? Architecturally, our method is to work with what is already there, weaving ourselves into the core and fabric of the street rather than imposing ourselves upon a locale. Materiality often responds to a local history and allows us to be playful too. At Aesop Le Marais, in Paris, Ciguë repurposed 427 small polished steel discs—conventionally used to close plumbing pipes throughout the city— to create shelving for our products. For Aesop Nolita, our first U.S. store, Jeremy Barbour reclaimed 2,800 New York Times, cut them into 400,000 strips, and stacked them to craft “bricks” of paper that line the walls and create joinery. As the leaves yellow with the years, they become a testament to the time captured within and passing around the pages. How do you select an architect for each store? We select architects not only for the excellence of their work but also their personality; their capacity to communicate and connect with us is integral to the realization of new spaces. In order to understand their motivations, we like to meet in person for a meal and conversation. The minimum criterion to be considered for a signature store project is usually five years’ professional experience though we are also keen to work with rising talents. We’re opening this fall our first Chicago store, conceived by Norman Kelley. This is their first retail project—their work usually lives in a more conceptual, artistic area. We’re excited to see the mark they will leave on an Aesop space. Could you tell us more about Norman Kelley's upcoming Midwest store? Aesop Bucktown will open later this fall. Carrie and Thomas are working with the Chicago common brick as a primary material. Their design investigates the geometry of Chicago's urban city grid and overlays grid patterns, putting our perceptions at play. Carrie and Thomas’ work can be currently seen at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the Architecture Biennal.