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DDI Magazine

Looking fresh

By Michelle M. Havich, Managing Editor
October 02, 2012

Photo: A Frame Studio
Joe Fresh, Canada’s largest apparel brand, has been a fixture in Loblaws grocery stores (its parent company) throughout the country for six years, featuring women’s, men’s and kids’ fashions, as well as accessories (purses, sunglasses, shoes) and a beauty line. The brand currently is in the process of expanding out of the grocery store area into standalone stores, including six locations in the United States.

Part of the expansion is Joe Fresh’s modern and unique New York flagship on Fifth Avenue, which has been making a splash since opening last March. “We choose our locations carefully, and the 510 Fifth Ave. location is one of the highest foot traffic corners in all of Manhattan,” says Joe Mimran of Joe Mimran & Associates, creative director of Joe Fresh Home and Entertainment for Loblaw Cos. Ltd. “It also is a New York City landmark, and it has such a rich history that we felt it was the perfect location for our first Joe Fresh store in New York.”

The flagship carries women’s and men’s fashions, accessories and the largest selection of beauty products of all of its stores.

To set the tone for the two-level store, Joe Fresh turned to long-time design partner Burdifilek, which got its inspiration from the Joe Fresh line itself. “The Joe Fresh brand has become famed for offering fast fashion at a fresh price,” says Diego Burdi, creative partner at Toronto-based Burdifilek. “Inspired by Joe Fresh’s young, modern and hip feel, Burdifilek crafted a clean and spacious interior, with various textures to frame the Joe Fresh offering.”

Located in the “Crystal Lantern” bank branch building by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the store’s design was not without its challenges. Because of the building’s historic status, the Burdifilek team could not alter the architecture. “Since the designers were unable to attach walls or ceilings, the unique opportunity inspired us to sculpt a store with freestanding fixtures,” Burdi says. “The store was designed to be flexible, with only the fitting rooms and the cash desk fixed permanently in place.”

Another challenge—which also served as a design inspiration—was that the building is comprised of 27-ft.-tall glass windows, exposing the whole store to the street and the surrounding buildings. “We were inspired by the splendor of the views, which we regarded as moving wall-paper of New York City,” Burdi says. The result is a gallery-like experience that reflects the historical nature of the building.

Merchandising cabinets are used as partitions, to create clearly defined zones for the Joe Fresh offerings, while cabinets and on-floor fixtures are positioned at various points to lead shoppers from one collection to the next. This ease of flow has been a hit with customers, according to Craig Hutchison, senior vice president of marketing and public relations for Joe Fresh Home and 
Entertainment. “We are excited about the feedback we’ve been getting. Customers get a feel of all of the elements as soon as they come in the store. They like the openness of the space and the ease of movement between parts of the store.

The store’s neutral backdrop allows the product to shine while reinforcing the gallery-like feel. “The clothes become the art, and negative space is purposely left for visual merchandising,” Burdi says. The merchandising team can easily reconfigure the fixtures and cabinets to separate collections or reflow the space as desired.

The fixtures and fittings Burdifilek used are exclusive to its Joe Fresh designs. Almost everything was done in white to allow the brightly colored clothing to really pop. Tables are powdercoated aluminum, while the wardrobes are powdercoated metal with Lexan panels. A custom mold was created for the woodgrain-textured polycarbonate merchandising cubes, and the cashwrap is cerused oak with an ebony stain. Concealed fluorescents are pre-programmed with dimmers to adjust for lighting levels for various times of day.

Another splash of color is introduced into the space via the large changing rooms, which are made of orange neopreme, the same color as the company’s logo.

Burdifilek also introduced real works of art into the store design. The two pieces, which were created by late modernist and furniture designer Harry Bertoia, were inherited with the lease. “It was the desire of the client to pay homage to the landmark space and respect the inherited mid-century pieces,” Burdi says. The 70-ft.-long gilded screen hangs on the second floor, serving as an edgy backdrop for clothing, while the hanging cloud mobile adds a whimsical element to the design scheme.

The New York flagship gives the affordable Joe Fresh brand a modern luxe feel that incorporates both history and art. “The building accentuated our vision to make the flagship celebrate the fusion of arts this great city is known for,” Burdi says.