Picture this: A bustling, winding, narrow Hong Kong street, packed with shops, restaurants, and food stalls. Shutter gates open and close each storefront; inside, the shelves teem with packages and products. You almost don’t notice it. But still, a second glance - a perforated steel facade, LED lighting, an organized, almost austere unexpected interior, inviting you in from the outside.
In this era of Moments, Stories and Taobao sales, culturally, we are at an intersection. Consumers want convenience but crave experience. Online shopping will never lose its allure, but there’s a real challenge for brands to experiment with the dynamics of modern consumption. HARMAY, the online cosmetics retailer, entered the foray of the physical retail world with its first brick and mortar in Shanghai, designed by AIM in 2017. With this newly opened Hong Kong location, we explored this online/offline duality of the brand even further.
Inspired by the old-school chemists, this Hong Kong apothecary meets modern day boutique where visitors feel the unexpected elevation of shopping and the callbacks and comforts of the digital age convenience. Walking in, stainless steel drawers line most of the walls, giving the space an orderly and calming presence. Where the area is not even about shopping – because these days, shopping merely is scrolling and clicking, anyway - but instead, it’s about discovery.
This innovative and bold approach to retail conceives a space for exploring and discovering hidden treasures. Subtle signage guides guests to open drawers, revealing the products inside. Walking up towards the second floor, space is left untouched, as found.
It is rough and even raw to the senses, immersing you in the tactile experience of traditional shopping. Here stainless steel mirrored cabinets are suspended from the ceiling, reflective surfaces hide their existence. With their rubber insides and the found space, they engage in a powerful dialogue creating an intimacy with the products, placing them straight into the hands of our shoppers.
Hong Kong is notoriously cramped, but despite its smallness, the two floors are spatially connected through the omnipresent rough brick walls, concrete ceilings and the continuous floor creating an unanticipated and spacious illusion. The stainless steel powder room echo’s this, with its glass wall, guests might second guess its function, but then a well-placed curtain creates playful privacy, leaving just feet exposed.
One of the benefits of online shopping is knowing what you want, click on it, and it’s delivered. HARMAY’s new Hong Kong space is an elegant counterpoint - designed for the curious and engaged consumer, and the casual passerby who walks in expecting one thing and finds the unexpected.