News • 01.03.2022

Blurring the boundaries between retail and gallery

Kanuk culture and legacy transported through retro futurist design to new SoHo store

Store front of a fashion store named Kanuk; copyright: Eric Petschek...
Source: Eric Petschek

Kanuk, a Canadian manufacturer of handcrafted winter coats since 1970, opened up its first international boutique in a historical 6-storey building on Greene Street in the heart of SoHo, far away from its original headquarters on Rachel Street in Montreal.

With the addition of this New York store, designed by Montreal architecture studio Atelier Barda, the Quebec-based brand continues to export its legacy to international markets, where this thoughtfully designed new retail outlet is key to spreading the brand’s unique culture.

“Our proposal focused on a reinterpretation of Kanuk’s history and current evolution, providing glimpses of, and connections to, its proud legacy,” explain the architects. “The company is fiercely proud of its Canadian-Quebecois-Montreal roots, and this new store plays an important role in exporting the essence of the brand’s unique culture.”

A modern white desk in a store next to a digital screen...
Source: Eric Petschek

The design consists of three distinct spaces, including a reception hall, a product showroom, and a fitting room area. In approaching the project in its entirety, Atelier Barda endeavored to capture the unconventional and visionary character of the brand through sensory experiences that are highlighted by subtle nods to utopian and idealistic references of Kanuk’s history, including emblematic design elements from 1960s and 1970s Montreal.

A modern white cash desk with a black screen
Source: Eric Petschek

A gallery-like setting

Upon entering the store, the wide-open hall, with its 14-foot ceiling, immediately diverts attention from the conventions of a classic retail space. Blurring the boundaries between retail and gallery, the hall’s minimalist design features immediately shift the focus to ambiance. A monolithic desk stands as one of the only furnishings in the room, incarnating a sort of ritualistic ‘altar’, built out of a semi-translucent resin.

“The altar accommodates a long-standing ritual of the brand, where full-length coats are laid out and folded in front of the client in accordance with the Kanuk ethos,” explain the architects. “A small, recessed screen was integrated into the surface of the altar, as well as a shallow machined change bowl as a subtle nod to retail tradition.”

Blending historic references with elements embracing the store’s New York setting, Atelier Barda designed the space with a gallery-like ambiance. Next to the reception desk, a compelling print and video screen adorn the walls and display Kanuk’s ad campaigns with wall-mounted texts beside them, describing the brand in both French and English, in the spirit of Montreal’s bilingual culture. Light-coloured carpeting helps reduce the space to a human scale, with retro hints of grey and brown that subtly contrast with the otherwise contemporary look and feel of the space. Directional lighting focuses exclusively on the horizontal surfaces of the space, creating a darker atmosphere on the surrounding vertical surfaces.

A fashion store selling coates with coat racks left and right and a mirror...
Source: Eric Petschek

Experiential transitions

Moving from the reception hall to the product showroom, the latter space is accessed through a 7-foot-high portal, providing a sense of compression in contrast to the 14-foot ceilings of the spaces on either side of it. Through the incorporation of basic geometrical shapes, Atelier Barda was able to infuse interpretations of both the past and the future.

A narrow and high fitting room
Source: Eric Petschek

“The idea was to infuse very subtle archaic architectural elements into a contemporary setting, rendering a retro-futuristic ambiance to the space,” note the architects. “It is through that lens that we designed the transition from the reception hall to the product showroom to be both a physical and sensorial moment.”

When transitioning through the portal, sounds resonating from the reception hall suddenly fade as you enter a much quieter, more brightly and uniformly illuminated space, inspired by the Light and Space art movement of the 60s. Lighting was key to bringing the distinct atmospheres of the various spaces to life, and Atelier Barda achieved that objective in collaboration with Derek Porter Studio and James Clotfelter Lighting Design. Hidden cove lighting shines upward and reflects off the vaulted white ceiling of the showroom, returning abundant diffuse light throughout the seemingly infinite, shadowless space. This brightness and infiniteness invoke a sense of winter white-outs and weightlessness which blurs the physical limits of the space, redirecting the eye to the ground-level and its seemingly floating products and fine details.

Exit stage left

At the rear of the showroom, another 7-foot-high transitional portal connects to the store’s fitting rooms, with a waiting area on the showroom side denoted by its curvature. A blue curtain separates the vast showroom from the more ambiguous ambiance that lies behind it, and resonates as a subtle nod to theater and a state of suspension in anticipation of the curtain rising. Beyond the curtain, a curved corridor underlies elements of the original building design, which Atelier Barda complemented with contemporary infusions to create a very theatrical and dramatic space with no clearly defined end in sight. Directional lighting adds contrasts to the walls of the corridor, while blue curtains conceal the placement of the fitting rooms.

“Our intent was to create an atmospheric and experiential space for visitors in an attempt to move away from the traditional retail environment,” conclude the architects. “We also prioritized a focus on Kanuk’s uniqueness, while remaining true to the essence of the brand’s vision and culture.”

Source: Atelier Barda

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: Garage’s connected pop-up store in Toronto...
30.03.2022   #shop design #omnichannel

Garage’s connected pop-up store in Toronto

Digitally-enabled store for today’s hyperconnected consumers

Groupe Dynamite announces the opening of the first Garage pop-up store in Toronto. In order to thrive with today’s hyperconnected consumer, the space acts as a lab for a digitally-enabled store, while building on a brand vision that encourages ...

Thumbnail-Photo: An immersive garden in a shopping center in Inner Mongolia...
17.03.2022   #design #customer experience

An immersive garden in a shopping center in Inner Mongolia

CapitaMall Nuohemule Hohhot: from an abandoned mall to a future-proof concept

CapitaMall Nuohemule stands as a new, comprehensive kind of contemporization: far beyond a simplistic mall refurbishment with superficial re-application of materials, it is about extracting the essence of a building and converting it into a new, ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Combining culture, art, and science in a futuristic shopping environment...
12.03.2022   #shop design #fashion

Combining culture, art, and science in a futuristic shopping environment

Jefferey Hutchison and Associates designs Grand Hall for Shinsegae Daejeon Art & Science

Jefferey Hutchison and Associates (JHA), a renowned New York-based fashion retail design firm, recently completed the Men's and Women's Luxury Fashion, Beauty, and Jewelry floors within the new Shinsegae Daejeon Art & Science department ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Burberry launches Rodeo Drive takeover
22.02.2022   #shop design #design

Burberry launches Rodeo Drive takeover

Exterior façade references prints featured in the collections

On February 10th, Burberry unveiled an immersive Spring/Summer 2022 experience at its flagship store on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills. A celebration of the freedom of imagination, the transformational takeover creates a journey through spaces that are ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Benetton offers customers a new metaverse experience...
21.03.2022   #Tech in Retail #shop design

Benetton offers customers a new metaverse experience

With an experimental store design during Milan Fashing Week, Benetton introduced its new shop in the metaverse

United Colors of Benetton has transformed its Corso Vittorio Emanuele store for Milan Fashion Week, aligning it with the brand’s new shop in the metaverse, which opened at the same time with the same experiential look and feel.The term ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Imaginaire – Everythings possible in this colorful paradise of games...
21.04.2022   #shop design #design

Imaginaire – Everything's possible in this colorful paradise of games

Store design by Perron in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Canada

The spatial objective of L’Imaginaire of St-Bruno was to create an exhilarating and unique customer journey in the colors of the playful universe of the game store. This first branch in Montreal had to be representative of the effervescence of ...

Thumbnail-Photo: This is what shop design can look like: with a love for licorice...
10.01.2022   #brick and mortar retail #shop equipment

This is what shop design can look like: with a love for licorice

A look inside the store of Danish confectionery retailer LAKRIDS BY BÜLOW at Bikini Berlin.

The smell of licorice is in the air when you enter the first floor of Bikini Berlin. At first glance, it's hard to pinpoint the origin, but follow the scent and you'll find yourself at the doors of LAKRIDS BY BÜLOW. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Zara presents its most advanced store concept in Madrid...
27.04.2022   #shop design #fashion

Zara presents its most advanced store concept in Madrid

The new store on Plaza de España is equipped with innovative technology such as the Pay&Go service, a fitting room reservation service and an automatic on-line return point

The new store on Plaza de España is equipped with innovative technology such as the Pay&Go service, which customers can use to purchase garments by scanning them with their mobile phones, a fitting room reservation service and an ...