Think cosmetics store, think Aēsop: it’s been the mantra for the best part of this century. Betwin Space Design, however, blazed a new trail for the Seoul flagship of Dr. Jart+, ignoring artisanal and phygital trends in favour of a strictly scientific setting. ‘Customers are interested in new directions for cosmetic stores,’ said Betwin’s Hye-jin Yang. ‘The most crucial thing for us was not to show the beautiful aspects of cosmetics.’  

The result is a symphony in stainless steel: a fully working laboratory that minimizes pollution and maximizes hygiene. Upon entering, customers would be forgiven for thinking they’ve entered a workshop instead of a store, as they pass through an industrial air-shower booth that blows off dust and germs accumulated in the outside world.

We wanted to show customers that the space provides them with the cleanest air and water and protects them against pollution

Indeed, it’s the same sanitizing system used in hygienic factories and is intended to mimic the first step when applying make-up: cleansing. ‘We wanted to show customers that the space provides them with the cleanest air and water and protects them against pollution,’ said Yang. ‘Most of the time cleansing is invisible, but we think that a pleasant environment should be the beginning of the Dr. Jart+ brand.’ An emphasis on the practical, rather than on the overtly commercial, side of cosmetics runs throughout the space. Products are largely confined to the side of each room, with customers’ focus firmly drawn to the scientific apparatus.

There’s little choice given the size of most of it, especially the large air duct that runs all the way through the store, ending on the roof. ‘We planned the building as a large filter,’ said the designer. Despite all the experimental touches, retail isn’t neglected entirely. Science and sales reconcile on the roof terrace, where customers can enjoy personalized cleansing treatments, including mask packs and keratin removal. If seeing really is believing, then there’s certainly no doubt as to the cosmetic credentials of Dr. Jart+. But will customers be put off by a less touchy-feely approach? We might have to wait a while to find out.

This piece was originally featured on Frame 116. You can purchase a copy here.