Cole Haan has gone from "ladies first" to "ladies only" with its first strictly-for-women store at the South Park Mall in Charlotte, N.C.
The upscale retailer of shoes and accessories, which got its start as a men's footwear supplier in 1928, has been ramping up its women's lines in recent years. That trend first manifested itself in its dual-gender "Lifestyle" stores, most of which have the women's merchandise in front and the men's in back. Then Cole Haan placed the women's lines front and center and pushed the men's lines to the second floor at its high-profile store in the Shops at Columbus Circle in New York that opened last year.
Now, at the South Park prototype, all 1800 square feet of selling space are devoted to handbags, outerwear, footwear and accessories for women. The new design is yet another collaboration between Cole Haan's New York-based design team and designers from Seattle-based Callison (The two firms previously teamed to create the Columbus Circle space, as well as the "Lifestyle" prototype at Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas that opened in 2003.)
However, despite the women's-only orientation of the latest store design, the signs still read, "Cole Haan."
"We decided that the best way to capitalize on the strength of our brand is to leave the store's name alone," says Meiling Leung, Cole Haan's design director, "and instead use materials and visuals that speak loudly to women to communicate that this store is for them."
To that end, the storefront features vertical Hollywood Regency-style windows with ebony frames and a contrasting rosal limestone façade. Displays in the windows "tell monthly seasonal fashion stories that are strictly for women," notes Leung. The entry doors incorporate a curving, interlocking symmetrical circle motif, which is mimicked by a decorative gold display screen at the back of the store.
The overall interior environment strives to evoke "a glamorous style that's refined and elegant, and envelops the customer in a very feminine and modern atmosphere," says Callison director Cindi Kato. Or, as Leung puts it, "We wanted the space to resemble a fabulous women's closet."
Anchoring the front of the store are a modern, tripod-legged display and a white ornate chandelier overhead that add a jewel-like quality to the space. The center of the store features interlocking multi-level mannequin platforms for displaying merchandise in a variety of configurations.
Custom accessory displays, in ivory lacquer with gold-leaf detailing and grasscloth backdrops, are located in the front and rear of the store. The side walls house shoes and handbags displayed in fixtures with staggered glass shelving and bronze metal bamboo legs.
An outerwear display fixture along one wall has a clear lucite decorative rod designed to make it look like the merchandise is floating within the space. Suspended above that rack are shadowboxes housing handbags and other accessories, which provide framed areas to highlight the enclosed products.
To add softness to the space, the walls are interspersed with stretches of gray silk drapery. Residential-style furniture, including slipper chairs, a daybed and side chairs covered in blue and neutral fabrics, add subtle color and elegance.
For now, Cole Haan is taking a go-slow approach to rolling out its women's-only spaces. Of the five stores it's opening this fall, only one – in the Houston Galleria – will be strictly for women.
"We're testing everything about the women's-only space – how it looks, how it feels, what's the right product mix and so forth," explains Leung. "This is a major growth opportunity for our brand, so we're taking our time to make sure we do it right."
Client: Cole Haan, New York
Meiling Leung, design director
Scott Fedje, director, image design
Gordon Thompson, executive vp, creative director
Michele Schnitzel, director, retail operations
Design and Architecture: Callison, Seattle
Cindi Kato, director
Chuan Nguyen, associate, project manager
Paul Myers, associate, project architect
Jan Gaylord, associate, interior designer
Outside Design Consultant: Hargis Engineers Inc., Seattle (mechanical/electrical/plumbing)
General Contractor: Herman Stewart, Lanham, Md.
Audio: Muzak LLC, Fort Mill, S.C.
Carpet: Masland Contract Carpet, Seattle
Fixtures: Goebel Fixture Co., Hutchinson, Minn.
Flooring: Wausau Tile Inc., Wausau, Wis..
Furniture: GDM Concepts, Paramount, Calif.
Kaas Tailored, Mukilteo, Wash.
Lighting: Standard Electric, Wilmington, Mass.
Downtown Inc., Los Angeles
Mannequins/Forms: Mondo Mannequins, Hicksville, N.Y.
Signage/Graphics: Colite Intl. Ltd., West Columbia, S.C.
Stone: Innovative Marble & Tile Inc., Hauppauge, N.Y.
Wallcoverings/Materials: Seattle Curtain, Seattle
JF Fabrics Inc., Tonawanda, N.Y.
Rohm Industries, Dallas, N.C.