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Urban Highlights

International hair care giant Schwarzkopf chooses a gritty Toronto neighborhood for its North American flagship academy



The restaurants, bars, clubs, boutiques and creative agencies of the Toronto Entertainment District have a new neighbor. And it’s not necessarily the prototypical kind of business that’s been filling up the Queen Street West neighborhood.

Schwarzkopf Professional, the Berlin-based hair care company, has moved its North American flagship ASK Academy to the second floor of a 100-year-old building overlooking John Street from a conventional suburban space in Mississauga. At first blush, that would appear to be like Talbots taking an urban loft space between a tattoo parlor and a holistic medicine and yoga studio.

But the approach taken by Schwarzkopf and its design firm, Toronto-based Gow Hastings Architects (GHA), fits the brand’s marketing objective and the mood of the neighborhood. “The other flagship stores around the world are all highly modern and contemporary,” says Jim Burkitt, a GHA associate who managed the project. “But in Canada, they wanted to position themselves as an urban brand, so we took the opportunity to introduce an industrial feel to the space.”

The design respects the bones of a 113-year-old building: high ceilings, exposed brick, wood floors and large, iron-framed windows. But within that envelope, GHA used some sleek materials and finishes to modernize the interior.

Because Schwarzkopf uses its ASK Academies (Attitude, Skills, Knowledge) to educate hair-care professionals on its proprietary shampoos, conditioners, sprays and creams, demonstration areas and teaching and consultation rooms are spread throughout the 7200-square-foot space.

Another goal was to highlight the product collection. So GHA adopted traditional store design tools – lighting, fixtures and graphics. A custom millwork shelving system at the entrance, underlit by fluorescent lighting, provides a presentation of colorful products.


To allow natural light into the space while blocking some of the less attractive urban views, GHA had Schwarzkopf’s graphics printed on a stretchable, translucent polymer fabric and placed in front of the windows. What’s more, notes GHA principal Valerie Gow, all these colors can be seen from the street – the ultimate branding.

Project Suppliers
Schwarzkopf Professional, Toronto

Designer and Architect
Gow Hastings Architects Inc., Toronto

Primeau Multimedia Inc., Toronto

Belvedere Co. Canada Inc., Mississauga, Ont.

Sistemalux, Toronto


Workplace Resource, Toronto

Wallcoverings and Materials
BGM Imaging, Toronto
Formica, Toronto
PC 350, Toronto
Stonetile Intl., Toronto

General Contractor
DPI Construction Management, Toronto



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