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Fernanda Cardoso

For Retail Design Inspiration, Take a Detour

Creativity can be sparked by a visit to an unexpected destination.




AS A DESIGNER or creator of experiences, be it retail, hospitality, workspace or any other space, finding the spark to inspire the next environment you design might mean taking a detour. I find that traveling to unexpected places usually surprises me with a new way to look at things. Translating those experiences into the next project or design is what the designer needs to do to elevate their work and and keep it fresh.

One of my greatest detours came more than a decade ago when I discovered San Miguel de Allende. Although I have lived in Mexico City my whole life, and San Miguel is only 3 hours away, for some reason I had never visited. This Baroque/Neoclassical City is well known, and hardly known at the same time. Whether you have been there a thousand times or it is your first visit, it is always full of surprises. Many artists and students from all over the world come here to study art and architecture. And if you travel here you will also find eclectic, unusual retail, five-star hotels, global cuisine, festivals, parades, art galleries and more.

Mainly you will find a city of experiences. If you are an architect, designer or artist, this is a must visit. You will either take home the experience and use it to enhance your next project, or you will never leave.

As with most countries, there are cities that are well known around the world and provide the stereotypical idea of what people think a country and its people are all about. These are always the biggest cities, so for Mexico it is, of course, Mexico City.

But we make the mistake sometimes in believing that only a big city can provide the key to what customers want. We think if it is not happening in a metropolis, it cannot really matter, or that any good trend starts in a bigger market and is then translated to the smaller areas of the country.

Since my first visit to San Miguel, I return as often as I can and have seen many changes as big brands have invested here, including the hotels Rosewood and Live Aqua. There is a huge choice of restaurants, with food from all over the world prepared by renowned chefs. This creates a city full of a variety of dining experiences comparable to some of the most famous cities in the world. And in this walking city, every street has at least one gallery, and the culture of retail as art is showcased literally around every turn. But for all the new, the history of the town is not gone. The marrying of the past and present is one of the things that continues to make this city an unending source of inspiration.


One of the most exciting examples of a brand growing to create an unparalleled experience is Doce 18 Concept House. Here, a historic renovation of an iconic property created a space where you can sleep, eat and play. Art galleries, champagne bars, a gourmet bakery, great restaurants and fine shopping are all together in one contemporary space. The building has maintained its original roots while adapting to a modern and fashion-oriented clientele. All over the city you can find old and new combining to excite, inspire and delight.

I have drawn on the ambiance, the beauty, the sights and sounds of this city many times in the last 10 years to infuse color and culture into my designs, to create an experience where one did not exist before. Is there a city near you that you may have overlooked, a destination you have been meaning to visit?  Take a detour. You may find inspiration where you least expect it.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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