How did Belgian heritage inspire you?
The heritage was very important. Architecturally, the Belgians are most well-known for the Art Nouveau style, which was mastered by the architect Victor Horta. We studied his work and others of this period, and reinterpreted and developed some iconic elements that could be identifiable and ownable by the brand. Elements like the gates and the turnings on the wooden legs, in contrast to the more modern clean store fixtures, helps bring the ‘Belgian-ness’ of Godiva to life.
What are the key elements of retail space design important to attracting customer flow?
Basically, you have three seconds to attract a customer’s attention as they pass by the storefront. Therefore, what the customer sees in those moments is key. You need to emotionally connect with them in some way. Story-telling, for me, is essential in retail design. So, once in the store, you need to create a path – a narrative that guides the customer through in a clear and simple way. Lastly, the visual merchandising has to be well thought-out and impactful. You could have the most beautiful store, but if you fall flat on how you bring the product to life through creative visual merchandising, then you might as well close the front door.
What’s next for Godiva?
We just finished two stores for Godiva in Istanbul – the first Godiva stores in Turkey. Here, we pushed the boundary further and eliminated the traditional chocolate display case. We created a ‘chocolate wall’ which brings the product to life. In addition, we are creating a new flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Each flagship has its own personality, while connecting to the key attributes of the brand.
We will continue through the coming year to work with Linda Lombardi and her team at Godiva to evolve the global store portfolio so that it is in line with the new store concept.
What about other projects?
We are working with Iconix China, led by Veronica Chou, on creating a new store concept for one of the American brands she is bringing to China. In addition, we are creating a new retail (apparel) concept for the famous Lotus car company, out of the UK. This will be an extension of the car brand and will start to roll out globally in 2011. We continue to work in the hospitality sector, creating new restaurants in Shanghai for Mandarin Oriental and renovating a few luxury hotels in the US.
Tell us about your partnership with Brand Image.
We continue to work with Brand Image through our exclusive partnership in Asia. This 10-year relationship allows us to bring together the best global designers; allows us to have staff on the ground in Hong Kong and Greater China; and gives us the ability to create brand-led solutions for our clients.
Check out David Ashen’s Godiva Hong Kong IFC store, created in partnership with Brand Image, in the June 2011 issue of Perspective magazine.