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October 30th, 2023

Cara Turnbull

"There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch." – Robert Brault.

Halloween is celebrated across the globe, and as we know it, a time of year for fancy dress and a holiday that blurs the boundaries between the world of the living and the dead, connecting to the spirits beyond. Just as mysticism promotes escapism, Halloween is also a means of escape for many as it provides the opportunity for participants to express themselves as they wish. As an age-inclusive holiday which highly contributes to the world economy, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Halloween consumer survey states that the total of US spending for Halloween is to reach $12.2 billion in 2023 alone. This figure alone illustrates the importance of targeting the Halloween go-getters by adding a new layer of experimentation to retail design, tapping into the surreal and creating an escape.

[Image Credit: Tiffany & Co.]

Conventional festivities

Having a more literal approach to creative design allows for direct communication between brand and customer as it conveys a message clearly. It also defines what the purpose of the design is and guides the consumer to a clear call-to-action. The importance of Halloween lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity for brands to elevate and bring a narrative to life with no limitations, connecting with a larger variety of consumer demographics.

The York Ghost Merchants

From storytelling to provoking emotion, The York Ghost Merchant’s store provides exquisite displays that refer to the history and traditions of the York ghosts. Branded as the most haunted city in the world, York takes ownership of its reputation by hosting an extraordinary souvenir shop all year round. The building is of Georgian heritage, retaining its original oak-panelled walls and display cases, retaining its original décor to support the brand’s heritage.

But it’s not just the design that makes the store so intriguing. It’s the use of their brand story filtered throughout the store that creates an unforgettable and exclusive experience. Myth and Heritage partnered to curate the shopping journey, where each customer is encouraged to listen to their spiritual calling to find a ghost which is unique to them and one that has a ‘spirit all on its own’. With the store located on ‘The Shambles’, a street which was once a hub for industry and trade, each ghost is handcrafted referencing those traditional manufacturing techniques that once flooded the town of York. By connecting with the ancient mythology and craftmanship of the town, the Ghost Merchants provide customers with a sense of comfort and a unique experience.

 

 

With the store being open all year round, and not just during Halloween, it reinforces the level of interest around mystic subjects as seen by how popular the Ghost Merchants are. To keep visitors intrigued throughout all the seasons, the store release collectable, and limited-edition items to encourage repeat customers.

[Image Credit: The York Ghost Merchants]

Hermes

Hermes is an advocate for festive design, utilising every season to connect with consumers throughout the year. Their extravagant approach to creative strategy never seems to fail and always impresses passersby.  This year, for their autumn-winter campaign, they took more of a traditional approach. As the ancient origin of Halloween marks the end of summer and harvest, the scene displays larger-than-life vegetables and anthropomorphic characters, bringing the idea of harvest to life in the energetic city of Hong Kong.

The installation, designed by Dutch-Belgian artist, Job Smeets, transformed the window display into a bold and surreal, fairy-tale-inspired scene which elevates the artsy and playful tone behind the brand. Through the exaggerated proportions, visitors are transported into a dream-like world that favours maximalism and reinforces the hyper-real.

[Image Credit: Hermes]

Surrealist Expression

With the seasonal holiday being the king of disguise and its surrounding the theme of pilgrimage, a journey into the unknown or a foreign place, it allows for a sense of escapism. Escapism stems from the motive to run away from the unpleasant and the desire to attract positivity through experience. This can be through dream-like and bizarre aesthetics supported by the idea of surrealism.

Within the retail industry, not everything has to be taken so literally but can be more conceptual to curate memorable experiences. Thematic experiences, such as the contemporary influence of surrealism, have been utilised in many retail executions and can provide more creative and original experiences. In a recent report, Epson stated that “75% of European consumers would change their shopping behaviour if retail outlets were more experiential” supporting the need for hyper-physical stores on the high street.

Jacquemus – Galeries Lafayette

During Paris Fashion Week ‘23, Simon Porte Jacquemus indulged in his obsession with immersive activations once again with a surreal pop-up located in the iconic department store, Galeries Lafayette. The brand welcomed visitors with a larger-than-life replica of the Bambino handbag, inviting them inside to view the colourful, vibrant range of the house’s most popular handbags, including the Bisou shoulder bag and Chiquito micro bags.

Simon Porte Jacquemus’ aim was ‘to recreate the Jacquemus world and all of my visual obsessions through Galeries Lafayette’s iconic display windows. I love the idea that any customer who comes to Galeries Lafayette can enjoy an immersive experience and discover the story of Jacquemus and everything it has to offer,’. To achieve this, in addition to the exaggerated sculptures, a photo booth, flower shop and a coffee nook were included in the space to mimic everyday life. The unconventional use of replica depicts the uncanny and inspires question and confusion, relating to the surreal and suggesting that it is ‘beyond reality’. Through this unique narrative, Jacquemus were able to create a new level of customer interaction by taking them on a journey through the gallery and giving more meaning to the pop-up space.

[Image Credit: Jacquemus]

Gucci Cosmos

For Gucci’s first-ever major exhibition, the Italian fashion house explored the experimental elements of its archives. Fashion theorist and critic Maria Luisa Frisa and British artist Es Devlin were behind the exhibit that recognised the brand’s iconography through the use of imaginative sets, sculptures and multimedia artworks.

Though the display is not chronological, it explores the history of Gucci by sparking conversation through each component of the design. Demonstrating that despite the different time periods, Gucci is very much a contemporary brand, with its iconic codes having been reworked to suit present times. With nine connecting installations, Gucci Cosmos guides the consumer through momentous moments in the house’s history over the past 102 years.

 

Each room is dedicated to the inspirations that prompted the most iconic collections, from Gucci Equestrian, featuring a surround-sound display of galloping horses, to Gucci Flora highlighting the colourful print of biophilic forms. Other rooms include the art of motion and reflections to create fanciful scenes that are never-ending, providing visitors with a sense of wonder and bringing imagination to life.

[Image Credit: Gucci]

Tiffany & Co – The Blue Book : Out of the Blue

In celebration of the iconic Blue Book, named after the brand’s signature hue, Tiffany & Co. debuted the Fall 2023 book in Shanghai, referring to the deep sea with entitled ‘out of the blue’. Renowned designer Jean Schlumberger took inspiration from the majesty and mystery of the sea to create highly innovative designs which reimagine the motion and texture of the ocean’s elements.

Showcasing more than 600 masterpieces, the brand explores the deep sea with five themes of shell, coral, and aquatic creatures, transforming the space into an experiential journey. The space includes a ‘sea-cave’ zone and an ‘infinity coral garden’, with colour, light and craftsmanship at their core. The aquatic hues and use of coral-inspired elevations support the thematic design, bringing the ocean to life and celebrating the wonder of the unknown. The mesmerising attributes of this exhibition reimagine the retail experience and its interaction with consumers, allowing the art of surrealism to uplift the brand while ensuring the incorporation of the traditional craftmanship that shaped Gucci’s identity.

[Image Credit: Tiffany & Co.]

Where do we come in?

Retail designs that tap into surrealism allow the exploration of the unconventional and bizarre, using it as an escape from reality, just as mysticism provides. If you’re a brand or retailer looking to design a retail space that’s reflective of current industry trends such as mysticism, then this is where we can help…

Let’s talk.

Every trend has an opposite, a counterpart that is its antithesis, and these ‘design dualities’ is precisely what our latest insight report explores. Delving into these dualities is not merely about style; it’s decoding the unspoken conversation of fractured communities, seeking pathways for bridge building through forms that reflect our division. Request the report!