For Sir Terence Conran, the very idea of ‘Britishness’ is both an evocative metaphor for a kind of timeless aesthetic and an opportunity to break into what he describes as ‘one of the most vibrant, modern cities in the world’.
All of which explains the frisson around the news that the designer has opened his first store in Seoul – his 12th globally. Conran has partnered with Lotte for this – a canny move given the South Korean retail giant’s ready-made market reach. However the massive 24,000 sq ft space – designed by The Conran Shop’s in-house creative team alongside Conran and Partners, and spread over two levels of a multi-storey valet car park that adjoins the flagship Lotte Department Store – represents a much more subtle ambition.
Hugh Wahla, The Conran Shop’s CEO, is bullish of the country’s creative energy. ‘It reminds me of Japan 20 years ago. This is a market that’s growing exponentially in importance and sophistication across many areas including tech, fashion, music, architecture and design. Along with that comes an understanding and demand for sophisticated design around furniture and living that is currently untapped. And Korean design tends to have a simplicity and harmony with nature that very much suits our aesthetic.’
To whit, the store’s first floor is an all-white almost clinical volume that’s accented with glazed glass screens and powder-coated steel for the collection of lifestyle products. An escalator wrapped in the house colour of aquamarine blue rises to the second floor, which holds a library and a bewildering catalogue of furniture, lighting and textiles.
An enviable armada of tent-pole names is paraded through the store, not least Vincent Van Duysen, whose Infrastructure lighting system by Flos spotlights the furniture; and the British illustrator and designer John Booth who was commissioned to create a 15 m mural on the first level alongside a range of collectibles for the opening.
‘I’d say this is the best Conran Shop in the world, and arguably the best design store in the world,’ says creative director, Stephen Briars. ‘It’s the newest, most evolved version of the brand’s 46-year history.’
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1st Floor, Lotte Department Store
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Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.
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