Strengthening its presence in South Korea, the jewellery brand has unveiled a five-storey flagship location in Seoul designed like a ‘secret garden’.
Conceived by Jouin Manku Agency, the landmark Van Cleef & Arpels location complements maison flagships in Paris, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The building – which features a nature-driven concept – references tropes of French jewellery tradition with that of Korean cultural heritage. Inspired by giant reeds, the exterior is cradled by a lozenge-patterned grille comprising metallic alloy, green ceramic and copper tones. The alternation creates a dynamic visual effect throughout the day, and into the night, when the framework becomes bathed in a soft, glowing light.
The entry level transplants visitors from the city streets into a lush interior garden lined by wide bay windows. Landscape architect Seo Ahn collaborated on the greenscape, which will change with the seasons and is the primary decoration. Indeed, each of the floors is an allusion to the seven mountains that surround Seoul; their vertical frosted windows reveal similarly verdant environs outdoors. The plants are intentionally chosen to complement the colours and materials of Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewellery collections. Say designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku: ‘We wanted to blur the boundaries between this interior space and the outside, fashioning an enchanting, almost unreal environment, a grandiose secret garden where Van Cleef & Arpels creations could coexist with nature, a central dimension of Korean culture.’
Open spaces are met with more intimate areas, like a triple-height mezzanine overlooking the ground level and a double-height private salon complete with a library. The second level in particular forms the grounds for exhibition, talks and conferences; an adjacent terrace opens to the boutique’s exterior garden. On the upper storeys, there is another salon for private dinners and lounging, while a terrace crowns the building.
In a time where technology is becoming more and more present in physical retail experiences, some heritage brands are turning to nature as an alternative. In many ways, that’s appropriate for these labels: nature prompts us to take a step back from the overstimulation of modern life, fostering our attention to and appreciation of the senses and organic beauty. This perspective is similarly important for grasping the value of craftsmanship – the crux of Van Cleef & Arpel’s brand. The Seoul flagship gets clients into this state of mind, encouraging a more permanent consumer-mindset shift through the interior landscape, series of comfortable, intimate spaces and activity programming. Time will tell if it’s the brands that embrace technology, or those that opt for a more naturalistic approach, that will be the victors of bricks-and-mortar retailing in this period.
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