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Cultural craftsmanship

By Jenny Schrank
January 03, 2013

Photo: Durga Prasad, Prasad Photography, Bangalore, India
Known for producing product of the highest quality fabrics and engineering techniques, Chennai, India-based men’s lifestyle brand ColorPlus Fashions Ltd. is at the forefront of ready-to-wear apparel innovation in the Indian retail market. Since its inception in 1993, the brand now is offered in more than 400 retail outlets in India and abroad, with a product offer ranging from T-shirts and trousers to chinos and twills.

But, while ColorPlus is a long-established brand in the Indian market (a subsidiary of the Raymond Group), over the years as international brands entered the market, the company has shifted to having the somewhat stoic reputation as “The Indian Brand.” A retail refresh, spurred by a new concept design from San Francisco-based Gensler, is aimed at taking The Indian Brand and making it THE go-to overall retail brand in India.

“ColorPlus is a premium, smart-casual brand that offers styles that are classic, timeless yet in tune with today,” says Hetal Kotak, COO for ColorPlus. “At the heart of the ColorPlus brand is the craftsmanship, quality and authenticity of our product. This is the primary differentiator, and this story comes to life throughout the stores.”

Located on Nungambakkam High Road in Chennai, the brand’s latest flagship aims to cherish that heritage. As the new store design took shape, the design team focused not only on the details and quality of the product, but also on the customer.

“We wanted to look at the store from the Indian male point of view and celebrate his life,” says Alison Carr, senior associate and design director for Gensler.

In addition to a new customer focus, flexibility and adaptability were important design criteria. The ColorPlus story needed to be communicated consistently, whether presented in the two-story flagship store in Chennai, in a single-story mall or in a shop-in-shop location. “The design is clearly defined as a unified vision, which allows it to efficiently adapt,” says Smita Gupta, director of India operations for Gensler.

The design language for any ColorPlus experience begins at the entrance, where the goal was to create a recognizable brand element. This is achieved with a Mondrian-style grid of factory-inspired windows, a reference to the brand’s detailed manufacturing process with a modern twist.

“Throughout the design we reference the aesthetics of a factory, as well as mid-century French industrial design,” Carr describes. “We developed an architectural language inspired by factory windows—a refined industrial aesthetic. We carefully selected quality materials and designed custom fixtures and details to have timeless appeal to the customers.”

The design team explored how to engage customers upon entering a store, and display products in a way that communicates lifestyle, rather than simply warehousing a supply of garments. The team opted to slice the store from front to back, with one side clearly defined by a dramatic gallery wall. This two-story “gallery” celebrates and defines the ColorPlus lifestyle, while “color shops” on the other half of the store provide
access to product and create an in-depth presentation of the selections available. “The gallery wall displays what is fresh and new,” Carr says. “The other side of the store provides more self-service opportunities for customers looking for specific products.”

Large- and small-scale graphics were integrated with the displays to further communicate the ColorPlus story. “Large-scale graphic panels at the gallery wall incorporate black-and-white lifestyle imagery that can be changed seasonally,” Carr says. “Small-scale graphics focus on the attributes and construction of the products, and provide educational information around the quality and technical details of the cloth.”

Another key element of the store—the “spool wall”—continues this focus on the quality of the materials and garment fabrication. An eye-catching detail toward the back of the store, this dramatic presentation of colorful factory thread spools is constructed in the form of a screen wall that creates impact with the customer base. The sculptural element can be rearranged to change the color accents or serve as a display area for items, such as shoes.

Due to the emphasis on lifestyle and the customer experience, the team carefully considered the fitting rooms. Moving ColorPlus in a new cultural direction, a “lifestyle lounge” was created with larger fitting rooms and space to interact with the sales associates. Whether tucked away toward the back of a store in a mall location or as a spacious mezzanine space in the flagship store, these high-service areas allow for personal relationships to develop between the shopper and the ColorPlus brand, a new method for building a loyal customer base.

Cultural and climate influences impacted the material selections, which were carefully considered in order to reinforce the store layout and brand elements. Two colors of porcelain tile highlighted by a thin line of small quartzite stone tiles communicate the distinct slicing of the floorplan.

Due to the hot, humid and dusty environmental conditions, materials also were evaluated for durability and ease of maintenance. The palette includes medium-colored oak veneers, and metal with cost-effective powdercoated bronze finishes, as well as white lacquer and white solid surfaces to create a modern aesthetic. While granite is a readily available resource in the area, products such as Silestone were selected due to the cultural interpretation that these materials reflect a more modern, high-end image. The custom-designed freestanding wardrobe fixtures are multifunctional to support flexibility while incorporating subtle details, such as an “X” or “+” to reference ColorPlus.

“Gensler ... brought [its] global experience and expertise, whereas ColorPlus brought the Indian culture, market consumer, local nuances, etc. to the table,” Kotak reiterates. “This mix of global and local helped us arrive at an international design suitable for Indian conditions.”

From the details of the ColorPlus merchandise to the retail refresh, the cultural influences from the team members tell a brand story through a timeless design.

“The quality of the ColorPlus products was a real driver for us,” Carr explains. “This clothing is beautifully constructed, so we wanted to celebrate that superior quality and translate it into an architectural language. This new, modern and unique expression of the ColorPlus brand provided an inspirational and engaging customer experience that appeals to a wider range of customers.”