Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

 

With Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing stores under their belt, online cosmetic brand HARMAY has a new flagship in the Sichuan capital Chengdu, courtesy of AIM Architecture. The design concept merges three unlikely references – Li Bai, the lyrical poet from the Tang Dynasty, architectural brutalism and a modern-day cosmetics store, to create an interior where journey and discovery meet the future of shopping.

The story goes that the famous poet, Li Bai, wrote in his “The Hard Road to Shu” how the stairs to heaven are easier to climb than the road to Sichuan. With Chinese e-tailer HARMAY’s fourth brick and mortar location, AIM Architecture has bridged the gaps between the power of a journey, and the beauty of discovery.

AIM’s HARMAY playbook routinely involves an element of mystery: the Hong Kong shop emulates an old-school chemist, where guests are free to uncover new items by opening drawers; the Beijing store draws on theatre, taking customers behind the scenes of the HARMAY production; while the Shanghai flagship reimagines e-commerce as a visceral, interactive experience.

As HARMAY expands its physical presence, the design relationship between journey and convenience deepens. Translating as ‘the road to shu’, the shudao is an ancient road system connecting central China with the mountainous and rugged Southwestern Sichuan. This iconic route, and the many natural and cultural treasures that surround it, is deeply embedded in both the land and Chinese lore. For the Chengdu location, AIM’s design philosophy evolved out of this historic context.

 

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

The Chengu location, on the ground floor of a busy shopping mall, spans two floors with a brutalist concrete and glass facade. Brutalism, with its rejection of nostalgia, perfectly balances the metaphor of a journey and rich history of the area.

Like standing at the start of a winding mountainous path, the exterior facade leaves almost everything to the imagination. There are hints of green plants on the second floor, flashes of light filtering through the blocked grid. The facade functions like a cage around the space itself, a powerful, beautiful obstacle.

Once inside, the evolution of the brand, the customer journey, and the shudao become clear. In the centre of the store, shoppers are greeted by a huge, ascending path – the shudao. Three unique routes all lead to a centralized high point. As guests walk up the slope, products are easily discoverable stored in open-faced table-like structures that follow the slope of the path upward.

Its sides are textured with Steel racks and provide more opportunities for shoppers to engage with products. The steel shelving, textured stucco above and stainless steel walls call back the chic, uncluttered unity of the other stores, without infringing on this new brand iteration.

While Li Bai might agree, this path is much easier to climb than his ancient shudao, shoppers on a mission will note there is a shortcut via a circular staircase to the gallery-like second floor.

 

 

The second floor opens up, where like summiting a mountain, the view is quite different. Greeted by greenery and gently layered curved steel shelves, the sleek semi-reflective surfaces provide more momentum and more to discover. There is a slightly more conventional cosmetics shopping experience awaiting here while curiosity and engagement with the brand continue through the energy of the design. 
Toward the rear of the space, there’s a lab where products not tested on animals can be tried. Dubbed ‘We Are All Animals’, this space connects the physical experience of being in the store to the e-commerce arm of the brand; products tried here can’t be purchased in-store, only ordered online.

The twists and turns of HARMAY’s shudao capitalize on the deep context of its home city and give a refreshing perspective on what it means to be on a journey – for the brand, and the customer.

In “The Hard Road to Shu”, Li Bai wonders if the shudao will ever end. With HARMAY’s latest store, it’s safe to say the journey has only just begun.

 

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

Harmay Chengdu Flagship, Aim Architecture, Retail Interiors China | Yellowtrace

 


[Images courtesy of AIM Architecture. Photography by Dirk Weiblen.]

 

About The Author

Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer and the founder and editor of Yellowtrace. With an unhealthy passion for design, she commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier events enable Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

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