Pieter Kool, head of design & development and art director of 3D design at G-Star Raw
Pieter Kool, head of design & development and art director of 3D design at G-Star Raw
 

23 Dec. 2013

Q&A: Pieter Kool, head of design & development at G-Star Raw

On 16 December, G-Star Raw launched a new retail concept in London by unveiling a 500sqm flagship catering for both men and women. Conceived to distance itself from traditional denim store formats, the shop centers on the product and helping the customer finding the right one. Here, Pieter Kool, head of design and development and art director of 3D design at G-Star Raw, explains in what way the concept breaks new ground. Interview by Emma Holmqvist Deacon

What inspired you to come up with the latest store format, and what is the central purpose of the concept?
We looked at traditional denim retailing and deconstructed it in a way we felt was essential in order to unlock the wide range of jeans available and present it to the consumer in an understandable way. Our aim was to create a rewarding shopping experience with focus on helping the customer find the right product. Hence, we’ve displayed all our “icon styles”– there are seven for men and eight for women– on mannequin legs. This method highlights each style’s construction and fit, while the different washes available are lined up below each model in drawer that the customers are encouraged to open.

There is not a denim wall in sight. Why have you decided to depart from this classic way of displaying denim?
While it can be impressive to show stock as part of a massive denim wall, it says very little about the product and it certainly doesn’t assist the consumer in any way. By opting to display our icon styles on mannequins legs instead, we’ve deconstructed denim retailing down to the bare essentials, focusing only on what denim is about: its construction, detail and fit. This method allows the customer to really look at the product as opposed to being overwhelmed by an avalanche of blue.

The fitting rooms have been given much thought. How important a part do they play in the shopping process?
Trying on jeans can be problematic and some even find it a mildly traumatizing experience. We’ve tried to make the process appealing and intimate by creating a women’s changing area with lower ceilings and individual fittings rooms that have been equipped with a denim robe, a scarf and a small close-range mirror in addition to the full figure version. There is also a large mirror outside the individual rooms, and a mobile screen that obscures the zone from the rest of the shop; both these details encourage customers to step outside and the vibe is laidback and happy, similar to a dressing up session before going out. We’ve already noticed that it makes many customers feel confident enough to interact with one another – having another customer telling you that something looks good is the most credible advice you can get.

The stock room is treated as an attraction in its own right and is visible for all to see behind a glass wall. Please explain why you decided to present it in this way.
Having the stock room in the middle of the store behind a glass wall makes it a transparent experience far removed from that of most stores. Sometimes you go to a chic store and a door opens to a shabby stock area. This makes one acutely aware of the fake shell of retail. We decided to make the stock room an integral part of the shop itself as it is indeed part of the same concept both in terms of look and feel.

Which other components play an important part?
We’ve shunned the traditional cash desk option which often involves a desk lined up against a wall with a couple of guys standing behind it like bouncers. Instead, our payment unit is positioned a little like an island within the space and the staff near it is there to help rather than take payments alone. In addition, we’ve introduced mobile payment to allow for flexibility – you can choose to buy a product and have it nicely wrapped, or pay instantly without any fuss.

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