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Galeries Lafayette, Beijing

A huge brand at the heart of the French nation, as well as French fashion; Galeries Lafayette sums up what it is to be Parisian perfectly. Except this store is not in Paris, it is in China.

Galerie Lafayette’s new department store, in the Xidan area of Beijing, is not for the faint hearted. The new store has 47,000 square metres of Parisian flavour and influence spread over seven floors and not one, but two highly decorative atria. Whilst sited in Beijing and aimed specifically at the fashion conscious Chinese market; step within this wonderful outlet and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the real Boulevard Haussman store in Paris. Such are the delights and references to the core attributes of this renowned French store.

The building is set to become a landmark itself featuring double-stacked display windows on the ground and first floor. Striking visual merchandising combined with moving LED displays give the building an ephemeral feel. Further double height LED panels wrap around the external walls and entrance ways and showcase live catwalk footage - customers are marched into the store with life size models.

Once inside however, the essence of French fashion becomes apparent. Elaborate, decorative elements pay homage to the original store and convey a Parisian apartment feel – something that was specifically designed for the Chinese audience. The two atria, linked by key walkways, are illuminated high above with the most spectacular LED displays. The elegant Art Nouveau glass and steel coupole of the Parisian store is beautifully replicated on each domed roof. This motif is further reproduced throughout the store on cash desks, store bags, loyalty cards, decorative grilles, mouldings and strategic instore displays. In addition, ‘Trompe l’oeil’ lacquer panels containing moulding patterns, grey timber panelling, engraved Corian with references to Parisian architectural details, all reinforce the domestic feel of a Parisian apartment. A selection of marble and natural stone flooring adds longevity and conveys a sense of decadence in this formidable store.

The overall theme is French and fun with lashings of glamour and atmosphere. Yet, the store’s sheer size meant that each floor and department needed its own unique style, colour-way and sense of discovery. On the ground floor beauty is kept clean and simple - white marble flooring, mirrored glass, stainless steel and cream lacquered display cabinetry. Luxury accessories has a richer palette conveying a more sophisticated feel – deep cream marble flooring, bronze mirror, champagne etched glass, together with champagne lacquer and stainless steel unitary. On level two, menswear remains a blank canvas for the product to shine - light Emperador marble, mid grey timber panelling and black stainless steel on perimeter walls. These are mixed up with; red carpet, mirror stainless steel, cream and black lacquers, and black and white powder coated metalwork on freestanding display cabinets. Similarly, on level three, womenswear is relatively neutral - tundra grey Limestone, cream decorated timber panelling for perimeter units, combine with red carpets, cream and burgundy lacquer with reeded, clear glass and polished stainless steel furniture.

Finally, level four features more womenswear, kids and lingerie; each area clearly defined and having its own distinct feel. Womenswear features - Clauzetto Fiorito natural, marble flooring with signature ‘trompe l’oeil’ lacquer panels on the perimeter, plus white lacquer and pink highlights freestanding units, mirrors and stainless steel and white powder coated metalwork. Kids has a more light hearted, fun feel - European oak, herringbone Parquet flooring fused with white lacquers, orange accents and decorative wallpapers on furniture linings. Finally, lingerie, as expected, is much more luxuriant - mink coloured carpet, silver beaded curtains lining the walls, polished brass and black lacquered furniture combined with mirror stainless steel and white lacquer units. The changing areas and toilets within this vast store are also part and parcel of the Parisian overhaul.

HMKM has created an exquisite Asian version of this French favourite that offers the Chinese people an entirely different and unique shopping experience. The store is full of Parisian heritage conveyed with a modern, youthful twist. This may not be the last we see of Galeries Lafayette outside France!

Images courtesy of Boris Shiu (exterior) and Jonathan Leijonhufvud.

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