For several years, Playboy has been spreading the message that it wants to be taken seriously for its fashion and design.
In 2002, the iconic brand began opening freestanding boutiques in Tokyo, Las Vegas, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Auckland, New Zealand. It partnered with fashion designers, such as Christopher Chronis, and expanded its licensed product lines to include cocktail dresses, cosmetics, jeans and home decor.
But it wasn’t until Playboy opened its first European store in London this fall that it hit the fashion big leagues. “It was important to us to have a space that shows the world that Playboy is more than a media company,” says Aaron Duncan, creative director and senior vp, global licensing, Playboy Enterprises Inc. “We’re a lifestyle company. We want people to realize that Playboy is a place to buy clothes, from underwear and lingerie to jeans and men’s suits.”
The 4000-square-foot, three-level store highlights Playboy’s licensed products, including apparel, accessories, jewelry and eyewear. Several newer labels are also on display for the first time in Europe: Playboy Icon, a collection of luxury eveningwear for men and women; Playboy Physical fitness apparel; and Playboy Legacy Collection, featuring archival photographs for sale to collectors.
For its British audience, as well as the millions of tourists who flock to Oxford Street, the brand glams it up with plenty of mirrors and reflective surfaces and a posse of colorful mannequins. “London is one of the fashion capitals of the world,” says Duncan, “so we felt it was appropriate to showcase the brand in a unique Playboy ‘cake’ and give it enough space to show the different tiers.”
Designers began applying the icing on that cake by restoring the building façade to its 19th Century roots. Sliding glass doors etched with the Rabbit Head logo and a second-floor round window, also with the familiar bunny, send the message that Playboy has arrived.
To overcome the space’s narrow entryway, designers used a palette of lighter colors, clear acrylic shelving, white tile flooring and uncluttered window displays. Once shoppers advance into a more open back area, the light and airy setting gives way to a warmer environment complete with purple carpet and backlit wall displays.
The final ingredient in the first floor transformation was the installation of a 39-step spiral staircase that permits views into the lower and upper floors. Adding to the dramatic passageway are 14 plasma screens set behind sheer curtains inside the stairwell. The screens play a montage of Playboy fashion videos and behind-the-scenes footage. “We’re using digital media more seriously than ever before as a tool to showcase the brand and to educate the consumer,” says Duncan.
While the store’s overall palette of gray luster, white and chrome unifies the space, designers highlight each product line with some distinctive touches. For example, a rainbow of 45 mannequins is on display inside the store, with each floor assigned a specific color. So yellow mannequins model the Physical line, located on the lower level, and gray luster mannequins dot the first floor. Playboy’s signature black magic mannequins (actually a deep purple) set the tone upstairs where men’s and women’s eveningwear is on display. “When we don’t have live models walking around, mannequins are the next best thing,” says Duncan.
For the high-end Icon collection – where cocktail dresses retail for $600 and menswear items start at $200 – designers offset the white terrazzo flooring with a purple carpet runway complete with more images of Playboy’s logo. Mirrored walls and high-gloss chrome complement the luxurious threads.
The lower level’s lounge atmosphere houses the brand’s lifestyle offering, including bedding and barware. Floor-to-ceiling draperies frame mannequin displays during the day and can be closed at night, turning the area into an event space, complete with DJ booth.
Duncan says by giving each product line its own setting, Playboy can test different aesthetics and material palettes. “Our long-term goal is to have a freestanding lingerie store, so this is a great way to start showcasing and building those labels,” says Duncan.
Playboy plans to open three to five freestanding boutiques a year, using elements from the London store to spread the Playboy fashion-centric message. “This is by far our biggest and best,” says Duncan.
Client :Playboy Enterprises Inc., London
Design: Paul Hickman Design, Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Photography: James Bedford, London