In the sprawling capital of the Hubei province of central China, Shanghai’s Lukstudio transforms a compact space into a boutique for hat specialists FUO that quite literally reflects artistry, millinery, and the qualities of its customers.

Behind an unassuming storefront is a space dominated by a spiral of mirrors, where hats front myriad reflections. Given the diminutive 55-sq-m space, the installation helps create an illusion of depth. Says Lukstudio founder Christina Luk, ‘[It] fragments the space, you actually don’t know its physical boundaries… You have yourself, your reflection, reflections of other people, you have the foreground and you have the background.’

Part of FUO’s wider rebranding, Luk says that the client was keen for the Wuhan store to incorporate art. ‘I asked, why shouldn’t we just treat the store like an installation piece?’ 

Citing artists Olafur Eliasson and Jeppe Hain, both of whom incorporate the theme of reflections and questioning perception in their work, Luk also points to stage designer Es Devlin’s 2016 mirror maze for Chanel as a reference for a third pillar of Lukstudio’s design: vanity, narcissism, and style. Simply put, people who wear hats make bold, unabashed fashion statements.

Finally, the interior incorporates textural elements from millinery, specifically leather and felt. ‘We wanted to find materials that relate to the product. That’s something we do – try to find the right language to tie the products with space. It’s a more memorable way to deliver store design.’

In China, where e-commerce dominates, statement physical locations provide differentiation in a crowded marketplace. ‘Surprise is something that’s lacking in the online retail experience,’ says Luk. ‘Online is for convenience, to browse as many products or choices as possible in a short space of time. But in a physical store it’s all about the tactile experience; touching things, trying things on, and having a relationship with the space and with the people who present the products: with the brand itself.’