A new Japanese store uses light and AR to tell a (spooky) brand story
One would have expected the first Hipanda flagship store in Japan to include some form of the angry folivore found in its logo – the miffed bear branding is such a pop marvel that the V&A included the initial prototype in its China Design Now exhibition in 2008. Indeed, the first Japanese flagship for the massive streetwear label features a Kusama-like mirrored labyrinth in black and white, mimicking the colours and patterns of the ursine fur.
But just like the Chinese brand subverts the expected cuddliness of the panda bear by presenting a grumpy version of it, dubbed the anti-Hello Kitty, it also throws a curve ball in this new store by turning it into its own version of a ghost house.
Designed by Curiosity, the space uses light and AR tech to create a series of personalized pathways that lead customers in search of an invisible ghost.
How does it work? For starters, the search starts the minute customers point to the façade with their phones, as the furious bear jumps out at them, bursting through a splash of mercury-like confetti. Then, by way of both digital and analogue interactions – the former mostly AR, the latter mostly light-based – the host’s presence is revealed among the t-shirts and hoodies on the racks and hangers, which move to the beat of his supposed steps. In another room, a sea of bouncing balls jump through the handheld device, until the sullen host materializes inside a foggy chamber.Think of it as trying to catch an adorably scary Pokemon inside a mysteriously lit minimalist haunted mansion.
The new retail experience brings together the worlds of art, fashion, technology and architecture
‘We were asked to bring street fashion into new territories, breaking boundaries beyond culture, age and gender into an experiential space, accessible and inspirational for all,’ explained Curiosity founder Gwenael Nicolas. ‘That’s why the new retail experience brings together the worlds of art, fashion, technology and architecture… or you can just call it emotion, passion, curiosity and beauty.’
The takeaway: Think of the success of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch episode and the controlled fear propelled by escape rooms. People of all ages are willing to get a little dark and a little creative, and are increasingly open to choosing their own adventures in all sorts of digital and physical spaces. Applying that to retail can lead to a sense of fun discovery that can create word-of-mouth buzz or bring in repeat visits.