Cutting through the sugary cuteness normally associated with teddy bears, a new store for artisan Joanne Oh by Seoul-based office WGNB frames Oh’s handmade cuddly toys within a dramatic, 3D linear architecture. Located on the first floor of Paradise City Plaza – a project realized by MVRDV in Incheon, South Korea – the 115-sq-m space is both shop and showroom, and it celebrates the craft origins of the bears, which have won a cult following in the country and beyond.

The concept reflects the way in which Oh hand-weaves the mohair fabric that she uses to make the bears, colouring the resulting materials with natural dyes. ‘We think it’s interesting to see the “skin” of the bears being produced by hand,’ explained WGNB’s Nayoon Yang, ‘so we opted to make the main motif of the space the handlooms and the mohair yarn that’s woven on them.’

Wooden loom structures interlaced with metal wire representing mohair yarns define the store, forming an elegant setting that’s effectively a geometric line-art installation. ‘We believe it’s important to seduce customers by adding impact to a retail space,’ said WGNB chief designer Jonghwan Baek. ‘We set out to create an impressive environment using only the handlooms and acrylic containers.’

South Korean design right now is all about discovering new materials and novel processes

The brightly coloured acrylic boxes, which serve as product displays, were developed together with designer Rahee Yoon. ‘We dyed the acrylic material ourselves, to get the custom colours we wanted,’ Yang added. ‘We did lots of tests and chose colours that make the bears stand out. We think the vivid shades add liveliness to the bears.’

The colour combinations also evoke the traditional Korean jokabo (patchwork) technique that Oh employs for one of her teddy-bear collections. Perfecting the acrylic boxes took at least ten experimental versions, according to Yang But then again, ‘South Korean design right now is all about discovering new materials and novel processes.’

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