The Hangzhou location of independent skincare brand Formoral takes the shape of a ‘desert planet’, AKA an otherworldly space by Lialawlab.

Key features 

To transport people to this ‘desert planet’, the designers adopted a retro-futuristic aesthetic for the interior. Keeping on brand with Formoral, it’s a space that, in their words, ‘explores the relationship between nature and the artificial, bioscience and lifestyle aesthetics.’ Ample use of arcs – including a fundamental tunnel which emerges from a circular form in the main entry area – enabled them to create a physical experience that seemingly transcends the 120-sq-m layout of the shopping mall site (which, notably, only has a usable height of 2.8 m). The design accommodates eight necessary functions: brand display, skin testing and product sales, rest and communication, events and demonstration, self-care and washing, an office, product storage and an employee break room. Materials such as metal foil, aluminium plating and mirrors accentuate the illusion-heavy environment, which is finished primarily in grey textural paint.  

Frame’s take

In spite of there being photographs as evidence, it’s difficult to imagine finding this space in a shopping mall, and that signifies a job very well done by Lialawlab. Playing up the sensation of exploration is a growing priority in the retail world, especially in hands-on sectors like beauty and wellness. Note something that Damien Zhong, the CEO of Chinese cosmetics retailer Harmay, told us for Frame 133: ‘When someone walks into a shop, it’s no longer to simply buy something. It’s about them taking the initiative to inspire themselves and pique their curiosity with products they weren’t expecting.’ And, in Formoral’s case, it’s not only a shop that visitors are walking into: it’s another realm that only makes the products more interesting, inspiring longer stays.