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28 February 2013
The Crocodile Concept Boutique
Like its fashion, the Crocodile retail experience undergoes a transformation to express both its past and future.
Crocodile is a pioneering Singaporean brand with a history that dates back to the late 1960s. But while it resonates with the older generation, it has, of late, also enjoyed a more youthful, fashion-forward following thanks to the steps it has taken at self-reinvention.
The decision to embark on a concept store came at a time when the brand was about to launch its Spring/Summer 2012 Campaign - its most conceptual collection yet. Think familiar staples with a twist such as polo shirts with pleated details, as well as adaptable tailoring like detachable collars and waistbands.
Singaporean creative studio USPTAIRS_ , the same people responsible for the highly conceptual Damien Hurst inspired N. Tyler boutique at Marina Bay Sands (see our story here), were approached to help reinvent the brand's retail experience in a pre-existing 140sqm outlet located at Vivocity.
"From the onset, we wanted to steer away from any pre-conceptions of what the store should be and create a retail experience that was forward-looking, but yet rooted in the brand's heritage," says Dennis Cheok.
"Being born and bred in Singapore, it is virtually impossible for me not to be familiar with Crocodile. The brand is very much ingrained into the Singaporean psyche, and stands for something different amongst generations."
"On the other hand," Cheok continues, "Joyce van Saane, my design partner from Amsterdam had no pre-conception of the brand whatsoever, prior to this project."
"It made for a very interesting design dynamic. Her appreciation of the brand was absolutely based on the current, and mine based heavily on nostalgia. I believe this dichotomy really translates in the end product of our design collaboration."
A common denominator was established in the label's DNA: the characteristic play of conceptual, clever, adaptable details. This inspired the conceptual framework of the boutique, in which key elements were re-purposed, re-adapted, and reconfigured.
The "emotional roots", as Cheok calls it, was found in the original Crocodile logo – 'Singapore Crocodile 1968'.
"Everything clicked immediately. We took familiar details from the brand's pioneering era: louvered windowpanes, mid-century timber furniture, wrought iron grilles. We then abstracted and reinvented these elements into a contemporary, unifying visual cue: the pieces which tell of a good, true-blue Singapore Story."
At its heart, the boutique is a transformable shell with an ever-changing and ever-evolving backdrop of full-height, pivoted display walls; every single display component has been deliberately designed with an element of adaptability in mind.
Notably, the banal nature of modular components was carefully avoided through design expression and material usage.
"For each of these rotating panels, we have dedicated one side as a mirror wall; the other adaptable. For this first iteration, contrasting patterned modules in timber and leather create distinct zones to mark the casuals from the formals; or the menswear from the ladieswear. These modular panels are designed to be fully reconfigurable and replaceable, to accommodate new functional requirements or simply to create a new visual language."
The Gallery, which sits at the centre of the boutique, serves multiple functions as a store within a store, a reconfigurable display, a gallery space, and a pop-up store. Its most striking element are the louvered window frames, which used to commonly be found in Singapore. The original wire-glass windowpane design was replaced, however, with hexagonal wire mesh panels to create shadow patterns reminiscent of crocodile scales.
Apart from its primary function as a supporting structure for the louver frames, the Gallery's structural steel frame also serves as the infrastructural support for lights and suspended displays. The louver mesh panels are fully operable to allow for adjustments in lighting effects and visual porosity, while the display frames can be repositioned and reconfigured as inserts into the Gallery walls, or clustered as free-standing displays.
The boutique also features little details that can only be discovered upon closer inspection, such as hooks made out of brass doorstoppers in the fitting rooms. But this only makes the Crocodile retail experience that much richer...