SKP Beijing, a fixture in China’s luxury retail scene, is about to open SKP South, a hip version of the flagship shopping mall directly across the street. Working with Gentle Monster, a brand is best known for its trendy eyewear, as well as their avant-garde retail spaces, there’s been much speculation about what will come out of this collaboration between the high-profile retail giant and a creative disruptor?
On December 4, a group of journalists stepped into the ultra-futuristic, museum-like SKP South for a press preview. At the concept café located in the third floor, we were treated with deserts in the shape of an ear and a mushroom (in Gentle Monster’s aesthetic style), and seated in the middle of the café was Gentle Monster CEO Hankook Kim and Vice General Manager of SKP, Xie Dan, who shared the story of how the collaboration came about:
“Mr. Ji (the CEO of SKP), really loved our stores’ style, so he called me to discuss the new department store,” said Kim. “Even though Gentle Monster is an eyewear brand, our core DNA is creative thinking, so together with SKP, we started planning an alternative vision of traditional luxury department store.”
While the core function of a mall is still shopping, Gentle Monster wished to evoke a deeper reaction from consumers. “It’s about how to break consumers’ expectations and constantly surprise them with new ones,” Kim explained. This appears to resonate with millennials today, who are looking for more meaning behind their purchases. Kim then pointed to a robot sheet display on the first floor as an example and asked, “While we may feel free in front of AI and a robot, how do we protect the emotional feelings?”
Is there more to the collaboration between SKP and Gentle Monster? “We benefited greatly from the partnership,“ Kim answered, but refused to comment on whether Gentle Monster was taking a shareholder role in the new venture. He also confirmed that creating new retail spaces wouldn’t be another revenue stream for Gentle Monster, though his team will continuously monitor the customer experience and rotate the displays inside of SKP South.
How much will SKP Select’s avant-garde retail design help to sell luxury goods? From what we could gather, it appears that consumers may stay a little longer than at your average shopping mall. And it’s easy to see why: There’s a maze of artworks to get lost in and many, many new independent designers being introduced there, or simply enough, the café makes for an enjoyable spot to while away an afternoon reading. But then, again, time will tell.
Upon entering, visitors are greeted with art installation named Future Farm.