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Holt Renfrew Launches Unique Social Media-Friendly Change Room Area at Bloor St. Flagship in Toronto [Photos/Interviews]

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Luxury retailer Holt Renfrew has launched a completely renovated changing room area at its flagship Toronto store, with the help of global design and architecture firm Gensler, to give its customers an elevated shopping experience.

Allan Tse, Divisional Vice President, Store Design, Construction, Facilities and Visual Merchandising for the retailer, said The Studio is located at the 50 Bloor Street West downtown store.

Allan Tse

“We really wanted to create a modern, luxurious shopping experience for our customers. It’s located on our women’s designer apparel floor and it gave us an opportunity to rethink the way that customers shop at our store,” he said.

“What we’ve created is a very elevated lounge. It’s democratic. It’s open to all. It’s open to the sales floor. And it’s a place of discovery. In the past we’ve had personal shopping suites which are very luxurious suites that a customer would book. This is a space that a customer could have their associate bring them to anywhere from within the store and curate an assortment for them and shop in a very, very residential, very comfortable environment. Very open to the floor.”

Holt Renfrew “The Studio” (Image: Stephanie Kretzschmer / Holt Renfrew)

Tse said it’s a general direction in retail where fashion and design are now democratic. It’s a place where customers can feel open to exploring with a sales associate.

The unique space takes the changing room and elevates it to a  multipurpose space for shopping, trunk shows and a space for in-store stylists to create social media content. It embodies a contemporary approach to luxury – comfortable, playful and joy-filled.

It’s also about creating those all important ‘pull-factors’ to bring people back into the store for an experience they simply can’t get online.

A stunning custom element is the hand-painted drapery by Korean-Canadian artist Dahae Song.

Tse said the concept is something that could be included in other Holt Renfrew stores in the future.

“As we look to renovate our other stores, this is definitely an experience that we’d like to explore to integrate for both our women’s shopping environments and our men’s shopping environments,” he said.

“We’re definitely looking at ways to animate the floor and actually bring shopping as an entertainment opportunity, as a social and entertainment activity to our customers. So the lounge itself is multipurpose . . . It’s flexible enough to do pop-ups, trunk shows and we even see doing private gatherings in there whether it’s a salon talk, special invitations with designers. It’s a very, very flexible space.”

The space is also sub-dividable to make more intimate spaces. The lighting has been designed for an intimate setting to a larger more open gathering. 

“The Studio for us is definitely a space we wanted to explore some of our brand pillars and magenta being a very strong pillar for us. A strong sense of colour and the vibrancy of magenta in the space. You’ll notice that there’s a very fresh, modern take on that,” added Tse. 

“So this environment that Gensler has created for us really is a foundation for all those activities. We definitely recognize that customers are shopping differently nowadays. With social media, the space will definitely be showing up in people’s feeds. The fact that it’s so identifiable is very important to us.”

Holt Renfrew “The Studio” (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Andrew Gallici

Andrew Gallici, Retail Design Director of Gensler, said for a luxury retailer it’s not just about luxury label goods anymore but the whole kind of cohesive experience. 

“And I think what’s been really interesting is the kind of reinvention of what luxury means for a lot of people and it’s about inclusive, engaging and even in some cases humorous experiences that are . . . alluding to what luxury was like 20 years ago,” he said. 

“So from that perspective we want it to be playful. We want it to be multi-sensorial and we wanted to create something that was really just warm and engaging from the onset.”

Holt Renfrew “The Studio” (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Gallici said the fitting rooms needed to be a new sense of luxury and spaciousness but also a bit cheeky.

“It’s this whole kind of unexpected moment within this serene space. Part of this is really playing unexpected and juxtaposed design notions and languages which I think form part of the surprise which adds to the overall sense of playfulness and luxury,” he said.

“As we get into the fitting rooms, we played with this whole idea of suites where we thought this is primarily designated for women’s wear. The idea you can break down the barrier literally of the walls dividing two of the fitting rooms. So there are four fitting rooms there. And they can become two larger suites.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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