For design-centric brands, a retail space is more than a place to stock inventory—it’s a physical statement about the philosophy they embody. Take minimalist Scandinavian clothing retailer COS, which stages elaborate retail installations and designer partnerships. Walking into one of its clean-lined shops or experimental installations tells visitors that it’s all about modernism and the lifestyle that surrounds it.
The latest case in point: a mirrored, blush-toned, pop-up designed by Snarkitecture within the L.A. shop Austere.
A concept shop focusing on contemporary and antique Scandinavian design, Austere is located in a former parking garage in Downtown L.A. Snarkitecture is an ur-cool design studio that has designed everything from a giant ball pit to a pair of all white Beats by Dre headphones, complete with a matching marble pillow. For COS, the designers riffed on the showroom as well as the apparel featured in the pop-up.
“COS’s design identity has been molded by our deep interest in the wider creative world, whether it be product design, art, or architecture— the three design realms that Snarkitecture straddles with its work,” Karin Gustafsson, head of womenswear at the brand, says.
The challenge for the architecture firm was to conceive of a refined space within the industrial context. To that end, Snarkitecture built two identical rooms that are open at the top. Each is monochromatic (typical of Snarkitecture): one white and one blush toned. Once visitors enter the space, they’re confronted with mirrored walls that toy with visitors’ perception. The firm wanted visitors to circulate through the space and experience different views of the room. They also wanted layer after layer to slowly reveal itself.
“We’re playing with things you won’t see in a typical retail environment,” Alex Mustonen, Snarkitecture’s co-founder, says. “It’s about what’s real, what’s reflected, and how do you perceive the space—there’s an invitation to explore.”
Crisp, free-standing cutouts of garments in the collection are peppered throughout. They’re a sculptural interpretation of the architectural silhouettes that COS is known for. “If a garment is on a rack or mannequin, you’re not getting that ‘perfect’ view,” Mustonen says. “The cut-out collapses the piece back to a drawing.”
Austere founder Fredrik Carlström says that the experience speaks to the future of impactful retail design. “Intelligent brands understand that if you want to differentiate in the marketplace, creating an experience is the way to go,” he says. “It tells what the brand is about really effectively. You can either write an ad that says you care about design or you could do [a pop-up] and prove it.”
Catch the pop-up until November 15 at 912 S Hill St. in Los Angeles.