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As the planet’s biggest luxury market, you’d say China is the holy grail for any self-discerning brand operating in fashion’s upper echelon. Well, although that may be true, it’s a notion local stakeholders are very much aware of. The SKP mall in Beijing has long been the home of glittering trophies from the realm of fashion and lifestyle, featuring a myriad of flagship stores of relevant brands from across the planet. But as the consumer market matured at a soaring speed in recent years, the company is shifting gear to keep up with its swashbuckling clientele, reinventing both its premises and and format. Interestingly, SKP is state-owned, and it looks like the venture’s raison d’être is aligned with the harsh government crackdown on illegally imported luxury goods in recent years. As a consequence of local market conditions, SKP mall in Beijing is slowly transforming into a department store, aiming to offer a more cohesive shopping experience to the Chinese capital’s most discerning shoppers, and which is able to rival the some of planet’s most prestigious shopping grounds along the way.

The recent opening of SKP-S, a distinctly design-led south wing is part of this newly adopted strategy. In a bold move, the company has teamed up with Gentle Monster, the Seoul-based eyewear brand known for its bold and highly evocative retail design, to create premises fit for today’s generation of digital-savvy shoppers. In retail, it’s an absolute first that the in-house design team of a brand has taken on an assignment to design settings for an entire shopping mall. Obviously, the Gentle Monster went full throttle, creating numerous theatrical settings based on the theme Digital-Analog Future and the assumption that in the distant future technical leaps will allow mankind to blur the boundaries between human and digital realms, and as such, new forms of evolution. The entire project is anchored by the continuously evolving Art Experiment Space on the ground floor which now presents its first edition entitled Future Farm, featuring the development of digital science and technology through a setting in which machines have taken over the planet, and information and artificial intelligence manipulates human memories.

AI replicants long for the past and create a virtual reality based on the analog world. Inside the space where the border between dreams and reality fades, clones of robotic sheep breathe, move, and sound identical to their original sources. Also situated here is a cosmetics shop with a setting which examines the unprecedented aesthetic trends of Mars. The skincare zone displays objects and plants representing the beauty of the Red Planet and the bar and salon offer new experiences through a rotation of settings. One floor up, Xu Zhen’s sculptures and Daniel Rozin’s kinetic penguins interact within the artificial landscape of the future. The first floor’s space, shifting from light to dark, presents visitors with an unusual experience as the conflicting ambience causes strange tension. The select shop examines Martian history and sees Future Martians evolve with new DNA, but nostalgic for earthly origins, they work to rediscover their past. A model of the spacecraft that transported the first settlers to Mars stands at the entrance as a monumental symbol. The floor’s spatial design and objects explore the history of Martians’ lives, wars, and power, featuring a women’s and men’s zone, a so-called soft corner, and a fashion accessories zone filled with items from fashion’s upper echelon.

The third floor features a shoe retail space depicting Mars Rediscovery a.k.a. the future after the future in which a new species of digitalised humans examine their history through past media and relics of the first settlement on Mars. To commemorate their ancestors, future Martians erect a peculiar speaker object, a symbol of media for old Mars at the centre of the store. The floor is divided into several zones, each featuring a specific style. Gentle Monster‘s very own store can be found here as well, and the design is inspired by a new humankind travelling through a wormhole between Mars and Earth. Shoppers step into the wormhole experiencing a surreal transition to a new world. The installation of a distorted body and the disfigured furniture articulates the force inside the wormhole that creates the warp in our physical reality. Last but not least, there’s Nudake a.k.a. Mars Café where shoppers can recharge in between power shopping sprees in a matching environment. Serving solely unique dessert concoctions, the setting is both eclectic and playful.

Images © Gentle Monster

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