The provocative products, supermodels and world-famous runway shows are just a few of the things that have made Victoria's Secret one of the most identifiable brands in the marketplace.
To keep that brand fresh, the Victoria's Secret team updates its store design every five or six years. But the most recent update, in New York's Herald Square, was particularly dynamic for the leading specialty retailer of lingerie and beauty products.
Victoria's Secret and its parent company, Limited Brands (Columbus, Ohio), decided to use the New York flagship location to show off the new face of the brand and store design. At the corner of 34th Street and Broadway, the two-level store is the retailer's largest in the world - 22,000 feet for lingerie and 3200 for beauty. Which is appropriate, since the location is one of the busiest corners in the world.
The goal was to create a shopping experience representative of the Victoria's Secret lifestyle: sophisticated, sexy, modern, feminine and loaded with attitude. Working with Yabu Pushelberg (the Toronto- and New York-based design firm), the in-house design team opted against the traditional pink-and-gold candy box because it felt the signature color was being overused.
"While Victoria's Secret will always be pink in some way or another, the basic color palette of this store is cream and black," says Tom Stempfley, director, visual presentation, Victoria's Secret Stores. "We used pink in certain areas and hot pink lighting in focal wall displays. Pink cues are there, but are done in a much more subtle way."
According to Glenn Pushelberg, managing partner at Yabu Pushelberg, the Victoria's Secret product is already colorful, so the "reverse Chanel" color scheme allows the merchandise to pop.
The main floor features three main openings - or halls - with an escalator well in the middle. The first is what Pushelberg refers to as the "Great Hall," where customers find the most fashion-forward products - glamour lingerie, vintage antique and special collections. Flanking the escalators and wrapped inside the lingerie space is the Beauty store, designed by London architect David Collins. The third hall is home to a special panty boutique, with merchandise ranging from $16 to $200.
"Through the advertising of Victoria's Secret, there is a desire to see the newest and raciest lingerie, which is why it's on the ground floor," says Pushelberg. "Once people are drawn in, the body of the merchandise is upstairs."
The second floor is an array of eight rooms broken out by all the current bra and panty sub-brands - Body By Victoria, Very Sexy, Angels, Cotton. "The Victoria's Secret customer is loyal," says Stempfley. "She finds a product she likes, looks for her bra or program and wants to see what's new. Having each brand in its own room is a great way for the client to shop."
Designers opted for larger-scale fixtures in the new store. In the Body By Victoria room, for example, the central fixture has a mannequin sprawled across the top, with panty displays and merchandise surrounding it. Nesting table arrangements are utilized so the lingerie can be spread out and easier to see. All fixtures are coated in high-gloss black lacquer with cream accents and brushed titanium.
In the Body By Victoria and Very Sexy rooms, the store planning team and Pushelberg designed display cubes inset and built into the walls. Within these, bra and panty forms are individually lit, while cream-colored mosaic tile lines each one. "These walls are on either side of the store so the customer gets a visual impact as soon as she gets off the escalator," says Stempfley. "Because of the signage, it's easy to identify and decipher which style is which. And when she enters the room, she gets a clear view of what that particular bra or panty does and its shape."
According to Pushelberg, there was a huge emphasis on visual merchandising. At certain points in the store, upholstered walls serve as display units with giant, oversized video screens playing Victoria's Secret's familiar marketing campaign and fashion shows. At the end of the first floor hall, a horizontal slot features a relaxed-looking mannequin, combined with a plasma screen presentation to draw shoppers back.
Perhaps the biggest attention-getter for the store is its mannequins. In the past, Victoria's Secret had used only bust forms. In order to bring the store to life, designers worked with Patina-V (City of Industry, Calif.) to develop realistic mannequins with sexy, provocative poses. "When you're doing lingerie, 80 percent of the mannequins'flesh is showing, so it really matters what the bodies look like," says Stempfley. "We created five different skin tones and faces that play back to our real-life models, used a variety of poses and built them into the store design."
The life-like "models" can be found in the majority of the store's rooms, on platforms, outside the fitting rooms and placed within sliced cutouts in the walls. Stempfley realized that it's rare these days to find a specialty retailer using realistic mannequins. "The mannequins are bucking the current trend in display, because the emphasis is on minimal, spare and clean," he adds. "It's not about realistic mannequins with heads, wigs and makeup. For that reason, we chose to go there, and it gives us sex appeal in the store."
Designers knew passersby weren't going to stop and admire intricate, small displays, so each of the store's nine large windows on 34th Street is adorned with one mannequin. After getting the customer inside, a different approach was taken. "Usually it's key to have merchandise close to the front door," says Pushelberg. "But Les Wexner (Limited Brands'founder, chairman and ceo) was insistent on the fact that because 34th Street is so busy, shoppers needed an area to slow down and orient themselves before facing the merchandise."
The grand entrance is purely a "decompression zone" from the hustle and bustle of Herald Square, allowing customers to absorb the store's environment without any immediate selling stations. Two large scaffolding units bring the window message inside and each features five mannequins in different positions, wearing the brand's sexiest and most current products. Pink theatrical lighting highlights the attitudinal ladies and helps make an intense statement.
Since beauty is central to Victoria's Secret, the Beauty store is in the center of the lower level, wrapped inside the lingerie space. Curved fixturing was designed to add a feminine and sensual touch. "The makeover stations provide live theater and animation of the color products," says Jane Merriken, vp, visual merchandising, Victoria's Secret Beauty. "Lighted shelves illuminate the merchandise, and mirrors reflect the colors and sensuous shapes of the bottles and color products."
The flagship design is being rolled out to five stores this year as a test to see which pieces and parts fit into a mall location. By 2004, it will become the Victoria's Secret design for all new stores.
"We were trying to develop a flagship design that would allow the product to breathe a bit more," says Pushelberg. "The success of this store is that it's a big space, but the customer is always close to the merchandise."
Client Design: Limited Brands Store Design and Construction, Columbus, Ohio - Gene Torchia, president; Scott Taylor, vp; Kathleen Baldwin, vp, design; Polly Miles, senior designer; Dick Immenschuh, construction manager; Kathleen Grady, purchasing brand manager; Bob Waddell, director, purchasing; Brenda Reed, purchasing agent; Shirley Schmitter, design director, Victoria's Secret Stores; Edwin Hofmann, design director, Victoria's Secret Beauty; Tom Stempfley, director, visual presentation, Victoria's Secret Stores; Jane Merriken, vp, visual merchandising, Victoria's Secret Beauty; Marilyn Fong, project management consultant; Kent Colwell, project manager
Outside Design Consultants: Yabu Pushelberg, Toronto (Victoria's Secret Stores); David Collins, London (Victoria's Secret Beauty); Fisher Development, New York (general contractor); McCall Design Group, San Francisco (production architect); Cooley Monato, New York; Grenald Waldron, Narberth, Pa. (lighting); Anne Baxter, New York (design and materials research)
Suppliers: PlayNetwork, Redmond, Wash. (audio); DMX, Seattle, Frog Design, New York (video); Pollack, New York, Kravet, New York, Majilite, Dracut, Mass., Brentano, New York, Designtex, New York (fabrics); Apropos Studio, Minneapolis (architectural coatings); idX, Toronto, LeDan, Mineola, N.Y. (fixturing); Innovative Marble and Tile, Hauppauge, N.Y. (flooring); Living Divani, Milan, Nienkamper, New York, Interior Crafts, Chicago, Galerkin, Gardena, Calif. (furniture); Duggal Photography, New York, Fuel, New York, Studio 212, Phoenix, Amerigraph, Columbus, Ohio, Igloo Color, New York, Skyframe, New York (graphics); Capitol Light, Hartford, Conn. (lighting); Patina-V, City of Industry, Calif. (mannequins); Fusion Specialties, Broomfield, Colo., Greneker, Los Angeles (forms); idX, Toronto, LeDan, Mineola, N.Y., IDMD, Toronto, Big Apple Signs, Islandia, N.Y., Design Compendium, Brookyln, N.Y. (props/decoratives); Ruggles, Versailles, Ky. (signage); Maya Romanoff, Chicago, Architectural Systems, New York, Forms Surfaces, Carpinteria, Calif. (wallcoverings); Silver Threads, Columbus, Ohio (window treatments); idX, Toronto (millwork); IC&S, Lancaster, Pa. (millwork coating); Binswanger Glass, Memphis, Tenn. (storefront)
©Peter Aaron, Esto Photographics Inc., Mamaroneck, N.Y.; Adrian Wilson, Macclesfield, U.K.