Chinese mega retailer Fapai is dipping its toe into luxury with the launch of a new menswear label, Atelier by Fapai, and the opening of an exclusive appointment-only concept store in Wenzhou. If successful, the new showroom will serve as a blueprint for 300 new stores across China to be rolled out over the next two years.
'The design is inspired by an artist's atelier, a bit rough, imperfect and built with affordable improvised solutions,' says Karin An Rijlaarsdam, creative director of Cloud-9 Interior Design, who were tasked with designing the space. 'We taught the construction team how to paint in an imperfect way, "damaged" parts of the brick wall and "repaired" it with plaster and paint.'
Purposefully left raw, the white-washed brick walls, exposed metal beam structure, worn concrete floor and metal ceiling access hatch, evoke the atmosphere of a well-used workshop. Two large central worktables that double as display cases for accessories provide a place for customers to sit and discuss their style or custom made order together with a stylist or the tailor.
To combat the lack of natural light in the space (the store is located within a shopping mall) the designers installed a series of backlit white-painted glass panels around the perimeter of the space to mimic clerestory windows, while carefully positioned mirrors at ground level reflect and amplify the light within the space. Modular furniture and fixtures with hand painted surfaces and hand tied leather straps are all custom made using reclaimed materials; display ladders made from scrap wood sit alongside display systems made from metal and bamboo rods.
'There is so much old wood available in China,' says Rijlaarsdam. 'In Chinese history wood has been the main building material: buildings, furniture and ships built entirely out of wood were standard until recently.' Now largely replaced by synthetic materials, Cloud-9 sourced the wood for the project from derelict buildings and local markets. 'The cabinets and entrance door are built from a mix of ship wood and railway sleepers,' recalls Rijlaarsdam. 'The floor is made out of floor planks of bygone Shanghai houses, the work tables are constructed out of large historical entrance doors originating from central China and giant beams out of Chinese buildings in Northern China.'