superchat singapore: walid zaazaa

© manifesto / photography: michel dupré - walid zaazaa looking sharp

singapore may be an affluent boomtown with the prerequisite abundance of first world perks, but in terms of shopping it's somewhat bland and there remain a few things left to be desired. sure, there are bountiful luxury malls, stores and brands to be found in the island state, but very, very few offer a curated palette of merchandise that appeals to the savviest of clients, one whose eclectic taste level transcends the traditional perimeters of fashion and lifestyle. this is where walid zaazaa, an equally savvy french national, comes into the picture to shake up the city's retail scene. formerly working as a fashion designer at calvin klein, dkny and replay  to name but an illustrious few  zaazaa has crossed over to retail to create a more profound connection with a specific kind of consumer. and for that ambitious purpose, the young entrepreneur sets up an exciting new concept store called manifesto. superfuture picked zaazaa's brain regarding his retail vision and soon-to-open shop.

your background is fashion design. what has brought about this transition to retail? very often as a designer, especially when working for big companies, you kind of feel disconnected from the customer. you never know who buys your products, how they use them, and why they choose them. it's a little bit frustrating – it's like being on the other side of the mirror: you might have a rough idea of what's going on, but you can't see the things that matter the most. now i’m switching to the retail side of the fashion business – the real side, and i find it extremely interesting and enriching. 

could you tell me more about the design of your new store, and your collab with online retailer inverted edgemanifesto will be a fully open space where we showcase products as in a contemporary art gallery. the shop will occupy 250 sqm. [2,691 sq.ft.], so it's pretty big. the idea is to keep it airy and uncluttered. a huge metal structure is situated in the middle where we present the products, artists and labels that we'd like to highlight. the space has been designed by wy-to, a very innovative architectural agency based here in singapore. they've worked with museums in the past, and they do amazing installations, mixing avant-garde simplicity and an unexpected use of materials. it was important for us to design the store in a minimalist and contemporary way because this is our aesthetic vision. i think we can relate the feeling of the store to the bauhaus era or industrial minimalism in general. and inverted edge is our online partner. they're helping us to bring our philosophy online through their website. 
 
you chose to set up shop in singapore, why there? i've lived in singapore for few years and it has always been difficult for me and my friends to find cool brands or cool stores here. most people travel to europe or japan to shop the labels and designers they love. so, i started to think that it would be good to start a business that offers what's missing, while not necessarily replicating existing concepts from abroad and instead invent a brand new retail experience that you'd only find in singapore.
 
how would you rate singapore in terms of retail? what would you consider the city’s pros and cons in comparison to bangkok, jakarta, manila or even kuala lumpur? retail is pretty tough here. i think singaporeans are very conservative when it comes to fashion. many people still spend lots of money on both statement and logo-type brands. but then again, there's a growing fashion community, and this crowd is looking for design, style and quality instead of prestigious names. people in bangkok are actually more adventurous and they're really looking for niche brands and new trends, but the spending power is not as big as singapore. jakarta, manila and kuala lumpur are interesting places. we think that there'll be important opportunities for fashion concept stores in these cities in the near future. we already have an eye on potential expansions to all these different places. 
 
could you elaborate on the goods that you’ll carry at manifesto? we'll be carrying designer brands such as costume national, lemaire and barbara bui. more casual brands like kitsuné and ymc are placed next to alternative designers such as avelon from amsterdam, divka from japan and french label unity. we'll also stock nike and adidas sneakers, eyewear by linda farrow, dyptique candles, fragrances by comme des garçons and lots more. there'll be around 70 brands, and the majority will be exclusive to manifesto
 
do you believe that different sensibilities in asian culture require a different approach when it comes to matters such as the service level you envision, the kind of merchandise you choose or other things. if so, how do you anticipate and what is manifesto’s customer profile? when it comes to retail, for sure asia has its own peculiarities. for example people in southeast asia aren't willing to engage with floor staff as much as in europe or in the states. but at the same time they expect excellence in customer service [read: alteration, delivery, special packaging]. and when it comes to merchandising obviously sizing is very different too. because we aim to appeal to mix clientele of locals, expats and tourists, it's at the same time not easy to approach such a diverse customer profile. we try to integrate this when we buy the collections.
 
what's your view on having an online presence and using online media as a retailer? we believe in omni-channel retail. that means that a product being sold by a retailer can reach different kinds of customers through a brick and mortar store, an online store, an app and also social media at the same time. it helps to increase the sell-through and it also serves to propose goods to your customer even when he or she is not present in the shop. in my opinion, this is the future of retail, even if technology is still not completely ready yet. that’s actually the reason we wanted to collaborate with inverted edge. they're the best online retailer in southeast asia and they are dedicated to try to create a real omni-channel retail experience. beside this, with all the social media like facebook and instagram at anyone’s disposal, you can reach people directly anytime. thus in theory, the store is never closed. 
 
what are the essential components of good retail and an appealing shopping experience? for us the most important element is the product that we select and carry. this obviously is the very foundation. each product at manifesto should have a story and a reason to be in the store. we don’t select a brand only because it's nice to have, but because we really believe in its potential to offer something interesting and fresh to the customer. good service is very important too, of course, and it's an integral part of the shopping experience that we bring. we're going to try to improve, refine and redefine all these parameters from season to season because they're the backbone of the manifesto philosophy and experience.
 
we can’t imagine that with your design background there won’t be a manifesto-branded line of apparel or other goods? any plans in that direction? well, you're completely right. that’s the next step, and i can’t wait for it to happen. design is something i've done for a very long time and i'm still loving it. but i talk a lot with my team and we definitely don’t want to do it in an expected way. we don’t want to rush into it and do a bundle of products under the name manifesto. we already have plans and Ideas, but now is too just early to elaborate on that.
 
the world’s leading concept stores are often hybrid platforms where creativity is celebrated in many forms. does manifesto anticipate such a role as well? again, you've got it completely right. all the concept stores we love differentiate themselves from basic multi-brand shops, and that's exactly our ambition. most of the time stores are sterile spaces selling a bunch of products at a certain price, but i'd like to think that it's possible to propose a different approach to connect with one's customers. we really think the element of art has an important part to play at manifesto, and we're collaborating with an art curator who'll select contemporary artists to exhibit at the store or perhaps even take over the space. art is a way to not just sell, but also to create emotions and reactions, to communicate to your customer in a different way. on top of that, fashion perfectly complements art, in the way that wine and cheese are a great match.

tokyo: book & sons store opening

© book & sons

as any shopping expert who's been out and about in tokyo can contest, there's an abundance of quirky and appealing retail concepts to be found here that you won't easily come across elsewhere on the planet. and the diversity of stores isn't the only thing that's impressive, it's also the pace at which the shopping landscape changes that gives the city an exceptional edge. but let's go back to the city's quirky retail concepts, shall we? very recently another one of those opened at the far end of the meguro district, and it's called book & sons. as the name already implies, it's a bookstore and occupies a compact 89 sqm. [958 sq.ft.] ground floor unit of a three-storey building.

what's special about book & sons is the fact that it's exclusively dedicated to secondhand typography books and a concise assortment of related merchandise. emphasizing the purity of the craft of typography, the store setting of book & sons has been kept equally clean and functional, and merely features a range of simple wooden furnishings, a single design chair and carefully picked, artisanal-looking light fixtures. the store owners are keen on a good atmosphere, and perhaps even more so on maintaining one, so special attention has been given to the sound system. indeed, we're talking that nifty wooden thing dangling from the ceiling. location: 2-13-3 takaban [meguro].

© book & sons

paris: saint laurent store renewal

© saint laurent

what hedi wants, hedi gets. since hedi slimane took over the creative reigns at saint laurent, the fashion house is not only making headlines again, but it has also become one of the bestsellers of the kering luxury conglomerate's extensive portfolio. slimane's irreverent but highly successful tenure spawns further tweaking of tne iconic saint laurent brand, and the ongoing transformation has also been visible within its global retail network. the latest project to be completed is the renewal of the women's boutique on swanky rue du faubourg st.-honoré in paris, at a prominent retail location that the brand has occupied for many years.

the makeover has infused the retail space with minimalism of a glamourous kind, featuring swathes of mirrors, white marble flooring and walls, and somewhat surprisingly yet beautifully eclectic, it's adorned with cherry-picked african sculptures and masks from the vast art collection of yves saint laurent and pierre bergé. for its most discerning clientele of power shoppers, the boutique has a separate v.i.p. section readily available, decorated in a similar style but homely furnished with striking modernist pieces by french and danish designers. the renewed saint laurent women's boutique carries the brand's full range of women's apparel, bags, shoes and accessories. location: 38 rue du faubourg st.-honoré [st.-honoré].

© saint laurent

london: hermès wanderland

© saatchi gallery

wake-up call! these are the final days of hermès wanderland, an immersive showcase of the illustrious fashion house at saatchi gallery. the exhibition refers to the very origins of hermès and its initial range of products which had everything to do with travel, exploration or simple flânerie if you were a bourgeois parisian. quintessentially a part of 19th-century life in the city of light, flânerie is all about revelling in the unexpected and this activity incorporates dreaming and freedom of spirit. the exhibition presents a scenography by set designer hubert le gall which instantly enders visitors into flâneurs with a paris-inspired landscape as its backdrop.

the eleven rooms present a series of installations in various media, created by a diverse selection of artists. from the parisian square, to the covered passage, or a café of forgotten objects this veritable extended cabinet of curiosities will delight and intrigue visitors, inviting each of them to open their eyes, free their minds and be enveloped by the colour, sounds and images that surround them. the objects on display have been carefully gathered from the vast hermès archive, the museum collection of émile hermès in paris, and hermès’ contemporary collections [on through may 2]. location: saatchi galleryduke of york's hq, king's road [knightsbridge].

© saatchi gallery

vancouver: neighbour store opening

© neighbour

vancouver's gastown area is synonymous to modern lifestyle with a specific edge, and as a result an abundance of appealing establishments have mushroomed there over the years, catering to a demographic of young in-the-know consumers that love the good life. one of the businesses that caters to this demographic and which has helped define the neighbourhood's retail landscape is men's fashion store neighbour. founded in 2012 by saager dilawri, the store offers a tightly edited range of contemporary men's fashion in a setting that's equally appealing. and now, only three years on, neighbour expands with a second store.

situated a stone's thow away at 45 powell street, the new retail space aims to establish a similar solid reputation, but among savvy female shoppers. the store setting is an understated one, featuring sets of sleek tables, steel clothing racks and shelves, all against a backdrop of whitewashed walls and concrete flooring. the neighbour woman store carries the sister collections to the men's lines, in addition to a number of new brands. the emphasis remains on european designs that easily fit in clients' exisiting wardrobes. labels currently in stock, include stephan schneider, lemaire, comme des garçons, christopher raeburn and common projects. location: 45 powell street [gastown].

© neighbour

tokyo: out in japan

© out in japan / leslie kee - matcha

japan is one of the most advanced of the planet's developed countries, but the hierarchical structure and strict social codes that are at the very foundation of its success have a flipside for anyone who doesn't fit in the mold. that certainly counts for the vast majority of the country's lgbt community, and as a result japan ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to the acceptance and visibility of this specific demographic in japanese society. and that's what makes the out in japan project quite remarkable. backed through crowdfunding and also by american fashion giant gap, the project aims to document no less than 10,000 lgbt people by various photographers in the coming five years, obviously to increase their visibilty and claim more rights. tokyo-based leslie kee, a renowned fashion photographer who's openly gay, created the first series of the so-called out in japan project. kee shot 111 portraits of people from the japanese lgbt community, ranging from teens to adults and senior citizens, and from all walks of life. the first batch of out in japan portraits is currently on display at the gap flagship store in harajuku [on through apr 28]. location: gap, 1-14-27 jingumae [harajuku].

© out in japan / leslie kee - sarah partch-smith + rika arita and mitsuaki kishida 

hong kong: thom browne store opening

© joyce

after setting up shop in new york and tokyo, a third thom browne store has bowed on hong kong's on lan street. this is a collabe venture with luxury retailer joyce which has been carrying the thom browne label for many years. the 2,200 sq.ft. [204 sqm.] store is designed by thom browne himself and realized by studio mellone. based on the designer’s original store in new york city. spread over three levels, it features a glass box enclosed staircase veiled with white blinds that weaves back and forth to connect the floors. similarly, the store interiors evoke an office from the late 1950s and early 1960s, featuring poured terrazzo floors, grey marble-clad walls, and the aforementioned signature window blinds. each section is furnished with cherry-picked continental mid-century furniture by the likes of paul mccobb, edward wormley and pierre jeanneret. the ground floor has a lobby-like feel. this area will have very minimal to no merchandise and will house a small lounge area with a giò ponti-style bar and stools. but there's plenty to shop elsewhere as the store carries the full range of the men’s collection, including shoes and accessories. location: 18 on lan street, shop 1 [central].

© joyce

paris: genesis of a virtual life

© maxime antonin-passadore

a little while ago we talked about eko, an edgy new club in paris that draws inspiration from tokyo's inimitable urban buzz, in a previous post. this focus isn't just evident in the club's setting, but interestingly also puts a specific spin on the varied roster of gigs and events, and in the latter category falls an initiative by maxime antonin-passadore. the french curator and artist has teamed up with the musicians of hong kong express and cvltvre for an immersive digital installation at eko. entitled genesis of a virtual life, it's held on apr 24-25 [8pm-10pm] and is pretty much an extrapolation of the club setting, featuring an evocative mash-up of the cyberculture of akira's neo-tokyo and the cyberpunk universe of blade runner. mind you, the installation is multi-layered and boasts short film screenings and interactive works rhythmed by experimental sounds by the aforementioned musicians. futurists unite!  location: 14 rue st.-fiacre [étienne marcel].

© maxime antonin-passadore

london: jac+ jack store opening

© jac+ jack

founded in sydney little over a decade ago by jac hunt and lisa dempsey, the jac+ jack label has gained quite a following on home turf with its collections of luxurious men's and women's basics and a growing number of other designs. after opening a handful of signature stores at key locations in both sydney and melbourne, the duo have pursued expansion abroad by opening up shop in london. for this first store overseas, situated within the shopping complex of the newly opened ham yard hoteljac+ jack have once again enlisted george livissianis to create a matching store interior. the sydney-based interior architect concocted an understated yet luxurious palette that forms the perfect backdrop for the merchandise on offer. arabascato marble is paired with black + white steel fixtures, concrete and birch ply, and the austerity of the aforementioned materials is balanced out by grey surfaces and belgian linen drapings. the new jac+ jack store carries the brand's men's and women's collections, and the opening in the british capital is to be followed by an online store – it's scheduled to launch at the end of this month   and shipping to the u.k. and europe. location: 33 great windmill street [soho].

© jac+ jack

los angeles: play chandelier

© 6817

6817 is a new art gallery that has popped up in the expansive west hollywood grid, set up by young gallerist theo niarchos. a graduate from chapman university, he followed his gut feeling to establish himself in this part of town. niarchos is similarly intuitive regarding his artistic focus, aiming to push a quirky mix of both younger and older interesting artists into the limelight and a variety of media. and judging by the very first exhibition, it's certainly a place to keep an eye on. 6817's inauguration show, entitled play chandelier, is by los angeles-based australian artist benjamin barretto [1985], and opens on fri - apr 24 [6pm-9pm].

it presents an intricately constructed sound sculpture. the artwork is made up of a collection of seemingly random materials and objects, but upon closer inspection each element contributes to its audio purpose as a whole. a mirror-ball motor rotates a 16-foot screw-lift, raising a billiard ball to begin its course along a series of slanting planes. it travels at varying speeds along precarious assemblages of found objects and sculptural elements, making contact with musical instruments in the process. pedestal fans become composers, their constant oscillation is experienced audibly in gentle cyclical patterns.

a projection of two iphones videoing each other in ‘selfie mode’ illuminates the corner of the room with a pulsing, rhythmic glow. additionally, a series of new paintings are on display, and in similar experimental fashion, these utilize the paint, finish and hardware of a classic electric guitar. jack plates, pick guards, buttons and guitar cables are idiosyncratically composed to create ‘marks’ on the slick, glossy base of guitar paint. the absence of electricity running through the works and their subsequent impossibility of creating music suggests an attention toward ocular composition out of materials usually used to articulate an audible composition. location: 6817 melrose avenue [west hollywood].

© 6817