CHALLENGE How does an American luxury goods retailer maintain its brand identity while appealing to a young Japanese clientele? That was the challenge at Coach's newest flagship store in the busy Shibuya shopping district of Tokyo.
ARCHITECTURAL AND LIGHTING SOLUTION Continuing a six-year working relationship with Coach, New York City's Michael Neumann Architecture was already familiar with the company's design philosophy. Whereas the Coach store in Tokyo's Genza district, also designed by the architect and the lighting firm Work Techt, is more formal in its approach, perpetuating the image of an established quality brand, the Shibuya store caters to young fashion-oriented customers in their 20s. Critical to the appeal of a product in Japan is that it seems 'fresh,' and that the shopping environment be open and accessible. At Coach Shibuya, the lighting responds to create a bright and hip atmosphere.
The store is located at the intersection of a heavily trafficked vehicular roadway and a pedestrian street. The architectural concept was determined first, and the lighting scheme followed suit. The shop is a play between luminous open spaces and intimate rooms, with attention paid to the light and dark material palette. A main feature of the design, the 'walnut box,' floats between interior and exterior, as it breaks the store's façade. Inside, the box extends into the store's double-height space. At night, the store's long exterior wall, fabricated from etched glass and conceived of as a three-dimensional billboard, transforms into a plane of white diffused light illuminated by Nippo's Slim Line fluorescent lamps. The store's front façade uses a combination of CDM 70W and AR111 lamps, which can be adjusted according to the merchandise on display. The back wall is lit with MR16s, so products will stand out.
Inside, rather than focus on the fixture aesthetics, the designers directed their attention to the quality of light and the lamp sources. The store's general lighting is provided by AR111 recessed downlights. Perimeter display shelves are illuminated with under-shelf fluorescent lights, and the walls are washed with MR16 spotlights. Another feature of the design, the duratran wall on the stair landing, consists of three panels, each 14 feet high by 15 wide and lit by fluorescent lamps. The landing can be used as a stage for in-store presentations.
The most significant difference at Coach Shibuya is that floor products are for display only: When a customer makes a purchase, a new item is retrieved from the stockroom and carefully gift wrapped, whether the purchase is a gift or not. In Japan, the act of the purchase signifies a gift relationship between the seller and the buyer. By responding to the specifics of this customer base, the neighborhood, and the Japanese enthusiasm for this American retailer, architecture and lighting design create a dynamic shopping experience. elizabeth donoff