Thinking outside the square

100Squared_MelbFashion incubator, 100 Squared, unveiled its revamped format at Westfield Sydney on August 26, accompanied by a renewed five-year lease of this, its original store, to August 2020.

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In addition, the retailer has opened its third store in Melbourne, at Highpoint Shopping Centre, on October 8. The other two stores are at Melbourne Central, while its Sydney stores can be found at Westfield Bondi Junction and Westfield Miranda, as well as Sydney Westfield.

A showcase for emerging fashion designers, the new design concept, first seen at Melbourne Central last year, delivers a new concept retail setting. 100 Squared founder and director, Justin Levy, explained to Inside Retail Weekly that this result was achieved by working closely with Westfield leasing and design.

“The reason why this launch is significant in Westfield Sydney is over the last 12 months we have redesigned our store concept,” Levy said. “We renovated our Westfield Sydney store this year, because it was the first store we opened five years ago.”

As no one had done this concept in Australia before, there were no real reference points to consider. So 100 Square’s design was underpinned by no small amount of research.

“We did a whole bunch of research, with some of our designers, some of our customers and our landlords, as to how we could best redesign our store,” Levy explained.

“Inspiration was drawn from the notion of deconstructing traditional retail design by deconstructing space … to create an exciting instore experience – but with no surrounding walls. The goal was to create a more contemporary and edgier space that strongly identified with the brand in its uniqueness and stretched the boundaries of retail design.”

The dressing rooms, for example, are constructed from over 3000 strips of wood and 300 metres of solid timber framing.

“The change room centrepiece was designed as a playful piece of architecture that invites you to investigate the space,” Levy said. “This is our first new design in Sydney.”

Another aspect of the design challenge was to ensure that it was not only edgy, but that it was customised to the mall it sits in, Levy explained.

“The key design challenge is not only to make it more contemporary, and modern and much better to showcase our designers, but because every shopping centre mall has a different aesthetic, we want to make sure that we fit in with those aesthetics,” he said.

Different by design
The first new revised concept was introduced in Melbourne Central last year. Although the new concept stores share the same low-level furniture, each has a significant signature design feature, such as the wooden structures at Westfield Sydney and the suspended cubes above the Melbourne Central store.

In addition, all the different brands and designers within the space ensure each 100 Squared retail space is different and ever changing.

In the 100sqm space, the ideal number of designers invited is between nine and 10.

Levy argues that 100sqm is a “decent size” to house enough designers and still offer customers the intended theatrical experience.”

“You would never expect this concept being in a shopping centre,” he states. “So it needed to be big enough that it would be impactful, and also big enough that we could execute it, in a theatrical way, so it would engage customers.”

Adding to the theatrical retail environment is the lighting, which Levy notes is a key element.

“In our new design, a key thing is lighting – traditionally malls are not strongly lit areas, so we needed to make sure that our space basically glowed when you walk through – you can see it glowing in the mall.”

The new design is also lighter in colour – the furniture and the flooring. “It went from basically a black charcoal steel, like metal [in the previous design] to a much more contemporary wood, which make the spaces now look much brighter and lighter, which I think is much more engaging.”

In addition, the redesign has granted more opportunities and versatility for displaying signage and visual merchandising for each designer– there’s more space.

“The key thing is presentation of product – they can now present their product, in a much better way,” Levy said.

Levy refers to the 100 Squared concept as a “fashion incubator” and thast it’s meant to be a designer boutique market. It’s very upmarket because of the designers it showcases.

“The whole point is to get emerging brands into our spaces where they can engage with a high volume of customers because they’re in busy shopping centres,” Levy said.

“Then we work with them to ideally become permanent retailers. We get their businesses up to a standard where they are a retailer in a high traffic shopping centre and then we teach them how to become permanent retailers. Hopefully they’ll move into their own store, or they can expand their business, not just into retail but also into wholesale and online.”

For example, one of their designers, Princess Polly, has now got an inline store in Westfield Sydney, while two other of their design tenants, Coco Liberace and Get Frocked, have gone on to also open up retail outlets in other shopping centres.

100Squared Sydney_8431

Seasonal leasing
Some designers have taken up the option of taking up a bigger footprint within 100 Squared, while others have taken on a second space in another 100 Squared location.

100 Squared doesn’t lease to a designer for longer than six months; it tends to lease each 10sqm space to each designer seasonally – spring/summer and autumn/winter.

“We look at the spaces and see how we can then tweak and change the spaces to ensure it’s relevant. And if the designers do stay on, beyond six months, we work with them to see what they’ve planned for the next season, and how they will integrate it to their space… . So each space is like a constant evolution or constantly transformed space.”

Also held seasonally and popular in attracting customers and social media are VIP shopping nights.

“It’s where the designers are in store, so people get to meet the designer, and they can talk to their product. Usually we do those twice a year – once every season.”

Products include mostly all types of women’s apparel – casual, special occasion – as well as leather goods, jewellery and accessories. Homewares have also been included at times.

“Our core customer is 16 to 25-years-old, and female. But we do have customers shopping with us all way up to 60.”

As the designers are all emerging, their product is unique.

“People are attracted because with a unique product, all their friends won’t be wearing it,” Levy explained. “It’s not available to a mass-market. People feel comfortable – they can match it with other pieces in their wardrobe, from a high-end designer and even a high street retailer.”

Growing opportunities
Last year, 100 Squared featured a pop-up store in Westfield London, which ran from April to November. For the long-term, the business is going to seek out more overseas opportunities.

“Europe and America, I think, would be the best two countries for us,” Levy opines. “The priority for us now is to maximise [the growth] in Australia first, and then if we get international opportunities because of that, we will look at that as well.

In addition, the business is also looking at an online concept for 2016. “We’d like to launch that next year; we’re just finalising now,” Levy said. “We need to find the best possible way to maintain our experience as it is instore, and migrate it online.”

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