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Thu 18 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Pop tart

Edgy, adventurous and unmistakeably French, Fauchon is making its mark on the Middle East.

Pop tart
The new Fauchon venue is located in Mall of the Emirates’ Fashion Dome.

‘A little bit punk’ is how Paul Bishop, managing partner of
Bishop Design Associates (BDA), describes the Fauchon brand. Since opening its
first store in Paris’
Place de Madeleine in 1886, Fauchon has evolved into a funky delicatessen/café
combo with a growing presence around the globe.

High end and highly aspirational, Fauchon is characterised
by its unashamed Frenchness. It is edgy and adventurous, and tinged with an
ever so slight hint of good-natured arrogance. In 1898, Fauchon launched its
Grand Salon de Thé, which would quickly become a Parisian institution – and a
firm favourite with the city’s wealthy and influential. To this day, the brand
is buoyed by the sense of heritage born in that 19th century tea room.

When Paris Group, the franchisee of Fauchon in the UAE,
decided to open a new café and retail concept in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, BDA was called
in to create an interior that would capture the essence of this multi-faceted
brand.

The resultant design so impressed the folks at Fauchon that
BDA has since been appointed to oversee the design of all new Fauchon venues
opening in the region over the next two years. The company’s regional expansion
plans will see the total number of outlets in the Middle
East rise to 23, and BDA will be responsible for the design of all
new additions to the portfolio, as well as
the revamp of existing venues.

Brand evolution

The design of the Mall of the Emirates outlet was the first
step in a new evolution of the Fauchon brand. “The Fauchon team had a general
idea of what needed to be changed and revamped. They have great vision. This is
a strong international brand which is starting to get a lot of recognition,”
Bishop said.

The new venue is located in Mall of the Emirates’
recently-launched 10,500m² luxury wing, the Fashion Dome. Flooded with natural
light and set in close proximity to a mall entrance, the Fauchon site was both
large and well appointed, Bishop noted. “It is theoretically considered as two
separate venues. One part is retail and the other is F&B, and it’s rented
out from the mall as two separate spaces.”

The retail area sells a range of chocolates, confectionary
items and other novelties, and will eventually expand its product offering to
include fresh breads and pastries. The café offers food and drinks throughout
the day.

The first challenge was making sure that the two venues were
integrated,
but also very distinct. Colour was utilised as a key differentiator; in the
retail area, gold dominates, while in the café, silver is the prominent colour.
The two areas are divided by large glass panels, so while a sense of separation
exists, there is also visual continuity between the two spaces.

All about the drama

In the retail area, the ceiling juts out in a series of
dramatic, dynamic angles. The rich, gold colour of the ceiling is echoed in the
counters that flank both sides of the store. “It is meant to be very lush, very
ornate, very over the top and in your face,” Bishop noted. “The interior of the
venue represents the brand’s
ideals. They are very aggressive, upfront and adventurous. They take
presentation very seriously but they are also a little bit quirky. For example,
some of the éclairs have the eyes of the Mona Lisa going across them. It’s all
very pop art,” he continued.

In both the café and retail outlet, the design is defined by
its bold, almost outlandish use of colour. In the retail area, the gold is
complemented by a vibrant fuchsia. In the café area, silver is set against
black and a powdery pink, to equally striking effect.

Black and pink tables are paired with black and
white-checked rattan chairs from Drucker’s Eiffel collection – creating a
contemporary, slightly cheeky take on the traditional French café. “It’s taken
the Parisian café and created a very modern, tongue-in-cheek version of that.
But it is still fundamentally French,” Bishop said.

Custom-made sofas were made from silver, ostrich-pressed
leather from Edelman, while columns and ceilings are covered in silver,
Italian-made laminates. Underfoot, a large carpet emblazoned with a grape-vine
graphic adds to the overall drama of the design.

Two of the walls are covered in a sea of rectangular
mirrors. “Each mirror has LED lights recessed behind it, so it creates a
refracted, fragmented wall panel,” Bishop explained.

“It’s not a flat panel, so each piece refracts light and
reflects different images. It has a broken feel about it and reflects the
various elements of furniture within. The wall elements become part of the
interior itself, metaphysically, through reflection,” he added.

A rigid angularity runs throughout the space – a literal
reference to the edginess of the Fauchon brand, one assumes. From the extrusions
on the ceiling in the retail area to the sharp-edged geometry of the mirrored
wall features, hard angles abound. “There are no curvaceous forms. It’s all
about the angle and the juncture,” said Bishop.

Local flavour

The strength of this interior lies in its ability to make a
highly progressive international brand resonate with a regional audience.
Bishop was very conscious of the fact that the venue was located in a mall and,
as such, couldn’t be overly intimidating.

“People don’t always understand the complexity of a high-end
space. You have to be very careful when you are applying design in a commercial
area, especially in a mall, because you could alienate the customer,” he said.
“Also, there are certain things that are not acceptable in this region. Very
low seating for example, might be uncomfortable for those in national dress.
This region is also very voyeuristic, so people like to see and be seen. You’ll
notice in this venue that a lot of customers sit front of house – almost in the
mall. People want to be associated with the brand.”

A mall location also translated into a whole extra set of
criteria that had to be considered in the design process. As well as trying to
create an interior that appealed to the owners of the Fauchon brand, as well as
the franchisee, Paris Group, BDA also needed to make sure that the mall’s
management was on board with its ideas.

“Trying to facilitate everyone’s needs and requirements
without upsetting the balance was a challenge. The mall has its own criteria.
There are restrictions on design thresholds, where materials meet with the
mall, where they don’t, how you clad columns, ceiling heights and so on. Each
mall has a different tenant manual and they are very strict in applying those
restrictions.

“It is quite a complex situation because your design has to
be in compliance with what the mall wants, what your client wants and what the
franchisee wants. You have to streamline all their requirements into something
that is respectful of the brand identity,” Bishop explained.

Timeframes also presented a challenge. The Fashion Dome was
scheduled for a September 1 opening and all of the venues within the new wing
had to be ready on that date, which placed incredible pressure on the interior
contractor appointed on the project.

With the successful launch of this, the first of a new breed
of Fauchon outlets, BDA has now turned its sights to three new venues in Qatar and a new villa concept in Bahrain. After
that, BDA will take the new Fauchon design language into Damascus,
Beirut, Bahrain,
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. And
with each new opening the brand’s design persona will evolve a little further,
Bishop said.

“It is all about location. There is an inherent brand
philosophy and styling that will always come through. You are creating a
roll-out so there needs to be that uniformity and that synergy throughout. But
the spaces and the dynamics will vary, so the brand will constantly be evolving.”

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