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Shop interiors

In the era of growing e-commerce, the physical space has become even more important for the identity of fashion brands. Two Swedish architects are leading the way with innovative retail interiors.

Words Oliver Dahle


The Swedish design studio Halleroed, managed by married couple and design duo Christian and Ruxandra Halleröd, is celebrating 20 years in the business. Christian explains how the studio has endured in the fashion retail industry.

Stockholm, Sweden

What is the background for your agency? Who are you and what are you doing?

— I started our studio in 1998 just after finishing design studies at the school of Carl Malmsten. I’m a trained cabinet maker and designer and my partner Ruxandra is an architect, trained at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. We’re working with interiors, furniture and objects but also with some private houses. Personally, I’ve always been interested in building small stuff, especially with wood. I think maybe I get it from my father who was very talented in woodworking, even though it was just a hobby. I built my first small car in wood when I was four years old. My path has been quite organic… I’ve had some important encounters with clients and friends, most of whom I’m still working with even today. I’m curious and that leads me into new directions and keeps the interest up. It pushes us to do and learn new stuff.

Could you tell us about some projects that you are especially proud of?

— The Engelbert store. I think it’s a very nice project that we did in 2013. I always like to work with the Byredo stores and I have a tight collaboration with Ben Gorham, friend and founder. I also like the Arigato stores because they are young and brave and have a very contemporary approach to retail.

What does a project look like when you work within the fashion sphere? How do you divide the creative part between you and the fashion brand?

— It depends a lot on the client and how they work. Some of them are very involved in every step, some just give us a brief but are still more or less involved. I really like to work this way — in a dialogue — because many of our clients are really interested in interiors and architecture. But then, of course, it’s always important that the client has trust in us and gives us creative freedom, but I don’t think that to be involved and to give creative freedom are opposite to each other. For us, every brand is unique and we always try to find their best potential. I also think it’s important to push the brand as far as possible in the retail environment, especially nowadays when retail is changing.

E-commerce is increasing more and more each day and keeps developing. Is this something you need to adapt to?

—Yes, we have to work with that in all our new retail projects. There are different strategies depending on the brand etc. but I think it’s a good thing for retail since it pushes the clients to be more distinct about what they are and what they want, and this usually results in better retail environments. Indirectly we work with this because you can do a store today in a totally different way than before. You can have new functions in the store, integrate the technology etc. It feels like the new store can be less retail and more of another kind of environment, for example homey or like a gallery, and this works more just to build and present the brand but also for creating and understanding the customer.

Does the location matter? Is there any difference between developing a store in New York versus Hong Kong or Stockholm?

— We always work very place specific. The house itself, the city etc. In the projects that we’ve done, we always try to adapt to the local market, even when we have a specific concept to work with. It’s as important as understanding the brand. It’s also important to be true to the brand and create something unique. And not be too precarious but have an open mind.

When developing a fashion store, do you consider the clothes that are going to be in there? Are they integrated in the work?

—Since the clothes will change all the time it’s more important to think more about the brand than the actual clothes. But it’s always important to understand what kind of products there will be… but more about the scale and type because that will affect the design of the displays.

Are there any particular attributes for Scandinavian architecture and design within retail?

— Maybe not in the aesthetics but I think we try to be more consequent when we start to think about a new concept — that is to use less different elements and to keep everything together. I think we are less ”decorative” than for example, French architects. But everything is very global in terms of retail and aesthetics.

What is happening in the future for your agency?

— We’re doing some projects that will be ready this autumn and early spring 2019, including a new Byredo store in London which opened in September. We’ve done the interior for an entire office for a big American fashion brand and we’re also developing a new store concept for them. We’re doing a small hotel in Paris and some new stores for Axel Arigato. And, of course, a lot of other new upcoming stores.


Founded in 2010 by Andreas Bozarth Fornell, the architecture and design firm Bozarth Fornell has an impressive portfolio boasting works within a range of architectural fields, with a major focus on fashion retail.

Stockholm, Sweden

What is your personal background? How did you end up in this business?

— I grew up in the county of Värmland and moved to Stockholm to take the Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies course. After graduation from Malmstens, I worked as a cabinet maker for 18 months before I got hired as an architect’s assistant. Through the years, I worked with various architects until I arrived at Acne Studios. I was hired as the in-house architect with a mission to design their retail concept. Acne was still a pretty small company at that time and I had the benefit of being part of that fantastic journey of a fast-growing company. I learned a lot about retail, design and the entire business. Most of all, the power of design and how it can influence people.

Could you tell us about some projects that you are especially proud of?

— For me, it’s definitely the Rue Froissart store for Acne Studios in Paris, which we designed in 2011. I love the contrast between the rough space and the milled aluminum with its reflections and the way it enhances the colours and materials of the concept. It’s also very flattering that I now see so many copies of that store, from young but also from very established names in the architect’s world.

What does a project look like when you work within the fashion sphere? How do you divide the creative part between you and the fashion brand?

—It’s actually very different from brand to brand. I prefer to work with a really strong creative director with a mutual respect for our work. In such a constellation, magic is happening. To be able to understand the brand essence it’s preferable to work with an individual or team that brings as much as possible to the table… I try to understand the essence of the brand and then transform that into a physical concept. Of course, our style and beliefs regarding design can be seen through our creations, but I think it’s important to create a design that reflects the values of the brand.

Are there any elements that are important to have in mind when developing retail concepts?

— There are many! At the end of the day the purpose of a store is to sell products, so you can’t compromise on functionality for storage, changing rooms and accessibility. But on the other hand, you can’t make a dull and boring concept with great functions, so it’s always a balancing act. I like to challenge old conventions by breaking the rules.

E-commerce is increasing more and more each day and keeps developing. Is this something you need to adapt to?

— E-com has been part of my world for the last ten years and it’s always a factor to consider. But I’m convinced that the physical retail in fashion is crucial for the brands — it’s a place where you can express your values and connect with your followers. I have seen so many examples where the e-com sales increases in a certain country when a new flagship opens in that same country. I see it more as a benefit to increase sales then something we have to adapt to.

In 10 years, what will a physical fashion store look like?

— In an aesthetic way, I think it’s more about trends and fashions of the time, so that’s hard to predict. But I think that e-tail and retail will be even more connected than today, in terms of services. There will also be a higher demand on experiences and more bespoke and personal adaptions of the products and services of the store. I also believe that the environmental movement will have a great effect on how we are building and producing both products and interiors. I hope that we will not see interiors made of pristine materials being scrapped after five to 10 years just because they were made based on a six-month trend.

Does the location matter? Is there any difference between developing a store in New York versus Hong Kong or Stockholm?

— Yes, I think it’s important to get a local touch on the concept which reflects the culture difference and other local adaptations. It can differ a lot when it comes to the production and the craftsmanship if it’s locally made.

What makes a good retail experience? Is there any store right now that you think is good at this?

— For me, it’s all about service — being treated with respect and getting the help and service you want. Of course, I also appreciate great architecture and clever solutions. In terms of architecture, I think that Comme des Garçons and Valentino have really strong architecture and retail concepts.

What is happening in the future for your agency?

— There’s a lot of new exciting projects starting up this autumn, and then I’m working on a new set up which I can tell you more about in a while…