It’s safe to say that in Japan – more than in any other part of Asia except, perhaps, South Korea – skincare is serious business. So much so that brand loyalty for the average consumer is measured in decades, if not generations. Not that the big guns just sit back, resting on their laurels and rolling out the occasional new serum and repackaging exercise. Rather, they might, like Ya-man – a beauty brand that debuted back in 1978 with hi-tech unisex face and body tools and an equally coveted skincare range – quietly unveil a stunning new look.
By any yardstick, the freshly minted 450 sq m flagship store in Ginza’s buzzy Chuo-dori Avenue is a smartly conceived salvo aimed squarely at the cashed-up millennial demographic with a penchant for beautiful design, unique (read, Instagrammable) retail experience, and sharply curated merchandise. That the two-storey store succeeds as well as it does on all three metrics owes much to the design of I In, the Tokyo-based studio deftly fusing elements of Ya-man’s products to create an immersive, almost psychedelic experience.
Inside Ya-man’s Tokyo store (with a nod to Star Trek)
The brief required, among other things, an eye-catching street frontage, a tall order in a neighbourhood bristling with so many luxury tentpole brands, including Shiseido, which looms across the street. The solution was a futuristic, in-the-round glass column in the ground floor lobby, where the back wall, lined with shifting floor-to-ceiling LED and corona lights, brings to mind the Star Trek’s transporter room on the Enterprise.
Designed as a kaleidoscopic nod to the LED technology central to much of Ya-man’s products, this dramatic light column (in morphing hues of red, orange, yellow, green and blue) forms the core of the store, say I In’s principals, Yohei Terui and Hiromu Yuyama. ‘The impression that you’re literally bathing in light is amplified by the fact that the light is diffused in multiple directions through a screen of glass that is designed specifically to subliminally resemble human skin cells.’
Behind and flanking the column in neat, back-lit rows are arrayed Ya-man’s hero products – elegantly sleek hand-held devices embedded with translucent LED nodes to treat just about every part of the face, hair and body, alongside regimented rows of creams and lotions. Edged with gold panels, the display shelves, say Terui and Yuyama, are individually lit in subdued light ‘where the interplay of light and dark create both a rhythm and the impression that the products are floating’.
The sensation of otherworldliness is carried through up to the second floor. Dubbed rather prosaically, the ‘Face Lift Gym’, the experience is luxuriously soigné as it morphs from the pulsing party vibe of downstairs to a more earthly, visually calmer mood of natural light. A series of creamy-hued semi-circular pods are lined in blonde timber, their silhouettes reflected in circles of light floating above each pod. Here, customers submit faces and tresses to the full range of Ya-man devices and products, whilst reclusive VIPs are whisked off to the back into a capacious suite swathed in white linen and walls, and gold accented furniture.
‘This is a store that fuses luxury with technology,’ say Terui and Yuyama, an altogether natural progression given their studio’s already proven track record in working with blue-chip brands, not least their design for Cartier’s Japanese HQ, Pokemon, and Shiseido. Up next for the busy duo is a waterfront concept house in Kamakura, which they believe will reinvent the way Japanese brands approach lifestyle, design and fashion.
The Ya-man flagship store is located at 8-9-1, Ginza, Chuo 104-0061 Tokyo Prefecture.
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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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