Noman Studio explodes the design box for Esprit x Opening Ceremony

AMSTERDAM – The latest collaboration between celebrates the brand’s founding vision in the spirit of summertime fun. The light-hearted collection brings back the colour pops and bright graphics of Esprit, which had a great impact on the young minds of Leon and Lim in the late 1980s.

Recalling the brand’s in its stores, Noman Studio was engaged to create a pop-up store for the collection in a well-known exhibition space for art, design and architecture.

The airy space in the heart of Amsterdam’s 19th-century industrial area is filled with colour and light, referencing the bright days of summer which complement the collection. We speak to Selina Parr and Lara Tolman of Noman Studio about their design.

Can you explain your concept for the pop-up store?
Noman Studio: At first we were asked to make a space within a space by creating an acrylic-glass box. That was before the location was even chosen. Our initial plan was to have the box as the ground shape and then cut out shapes that could function as racks and tables, the way a pop-out book or card functions.

Then during the design process – and given the final location – we sliced up the box. It was too much, in the centre of the room, it didn’t invite.

We let go of the box concept because it was narrowing us, but we held on to the shapes, the pop-out system, and the grid. We started cutting and flipping the walls of the box, until frames appeared to which we could give function; racks to hang the collection from or sections to prop up other objects. Finally, we placed the elements in a grid to maintain the logic of the space. So as a matter of fact we exploded the box.

Tell me about the display units.
We designed them as a pop-out system – merging physical laws and aesthetic values. By setting out a dogmatic set of rules, we could justify radical gestures. Every three-dimensional shape in the room derives from a flat rectangle – we cut out the pattern of stripes and squares in the same way an origami artist folds paper.

All the stripes were kept the same width to create a union between the shapes. We wanted to create a play of colour and shape that invites and attracts while keeping in mind the functional requirements.

What material did you use?
We worked with a plastic called – it exists in only nine colours, so we chose the ones that would complement the collection. The material is unique because it absorbs light and diffuses it, resulting in a transformation of the ambient lighting and the material itself. The material puts a filter on reality, making it look cloudy even though it’s fully transparent.

Whereas other materials that diffuse light are opaque to hide the light source, this shiny, transparent plastic has the quality of materializing light in a mystical way. And its soft tints are warm and contemporary.

How did you translate this display system and spatial design to the exhibition centre?
We wanted to keep the interior intact as much as possible, and have the exploded box installation as a second layer. The building is very nicely renovated; the balance between the old and new industrial elements is perfect.

What also stunned us was the natural light in the space. Therefore we wanted the installation to be very light in both form and material, almost like it could float.

And how does this relate to the brand?
The collaboration between Esprit and Opening Ceremony resulted in a very happy and positive collection, and we wanted to keep that spirit alive in the interior without becoming childish or funny. It’s always a challenge to get the right balance of different ingredients for the work to become layered, not simply one-note.

The other thing that we thought was interesting was the product photoshoot for marketing the collection. We especially liked the group photos. So we played with that as well, making several ‘groups’ of objects and display elements in the space. There is a pink, nude, blue, and green group.

What do you think sets this space apart from other pop-up or permanent stores?
Esprit x Opening Ceremony and their external creative team allowed us to really design the space from within, instead of only focusing on the surface. They understood that it’s important to make everything fit an idea, not just look good – from the concept to the materials, construction and details. That is quite extraordinary!

The Esprit by Opening Ceremony Amsterdam pop-up store is open only until 6 May.


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