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Thu 9 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Retail therapy

A S*ucy revamp by Eiko Fajita-Summers shows how fashion and interiors go hand-in-hand.

A S*ucy revamp by Eiko Fajita-Summers shows how fashion and interiors go hand-in-hand.

S*uce, a ‘trend boutique' located at the Village Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road, first opened its doors in Febuary 2004. Following its success as a woman's fashion haven, the store underwent a major expansion and re-fit last year, in a designer collaboration between Zayan Ghandour - co-founder, buyer and creative director of S*uce, and Eiko Fujita-Summers, a senior designer at Above Consultancy design firm.

Having already established a strong style concept of its own - the store needed a re-vamp to go hand-in-hand with its extension. Ghandour wanted to keep the theme, of the boutique, ‘as if walking into your best-friends wardrobe' - the brand's well-established trademark, elaborating on this idea, the pair joined forces.

"The design brief was very unconventional," said Ghandour. "It emerged through the collection of a lot of ideas all mixed together from Eiko's travels, books and magazines along with mine. Most of the time, collectively, we have so many ideas and we just don't have enough space for all of them."

"That's right. Normally, briefing for us is collecting tons of gorgeous pictures and brainstorming from there, the strangest thing is sometimes we come up with the same image," said Fujita-Summers.

The new extension features some of S*uce's trademark interior design elements such as designer chandeliers, white concrete flooring, and gold-finished fixtures such as hanging rails, and cabinet detailing. However, there are many new and unique design elements including photo-wall-frames used to display accessories, kitschy neon signs and Tromp L'Oeil furniture (specialists in painted artwork on furniture).

Despite having introduced new and improved design elements to the space, Eiko worked hard not to completely wipe-out the ‘old' look of the store - weaving the old with the new.

"With a refit, for me there always has to be some kind of transition. By that I mean I don't like faking what's already there, so why not have it as part of the design? The change had to be present, showing that everything has to get better. It's all about constant change - it's a fashion store at the end of the day, nothing in the fashion industry ever stays the same, so I wanted the interior to portray that," said Fujita-Summers.

The design of S*uce is essentially a theme that's growing and developing. The original S*uce according to Eiko "had a very strong style, but it didn't have a catching point or much focus...but it was really easy for me to look and expand on the existing idea itself."

The trendy outlet had white-painted wooden floors, and the walls were painted a different colour every six-months to give the place a ‘new' look every so often. Eiko kept the original materials used and added her own unique twist to them.

"There was a lot of material that we had to keep because of the nature of the store. However, there is a section where the old store obviously develops into the new - we wanted it to be a very natural change, connected with the extension, but still with a distinct difference," said Eiko.

"We used the same wooden flooring - white concrete and wood, and we added a gold extension just to separate the old from the new," she added.

Walking into the store, the difference between the ‘white-side' (old), and ‘gold-side' (new) is immediately noticeable. Using a strong palette of gold, pink and white - the store's main identity colours, the interiors seem to flow into each other in a seamless design.

The floor half painted white and the other, gold, is evidence of this, as is the seating stool laid up against the wall. In addition, half of the wall is painted-white, while the other is covered in pretty bird-detailed wallpaper - allowing the transition to be subtle, yet highly clear.

"At first we used to change the colours of the walls every six months then, we ran out of colours I guess....and opted for wallpaper," said Ghandour. "We fell in love with it instantly at a trade show in London - it wasn't actually sold in stores until after we bought it. Only a little of the paper was used at the beginning, just a door and two walls, but we expanded its use, and blinged it with Swarovski Crystals - now it's all part of the Sauce identity."The main features that makes S*uce stand out from its other fashion-clad competitors in the region, is the intricate detailing that went into the design, something that was not present in the previous design of the store.

"The first location was done in collaboration with a contactor and that's it - we didn't have a main designer to work with us on the main features, or someone to really focus on the bits and bobs of detailing - we only had contractor to put designs on paper, but had no direction to tell us what works were, and what doesn't," said Ghandour.

"The lighting for example didn't work well at all. When Eiko came in everything was done, not just stylistically, but professionally. Basically, what we did together is decide on white flooring, a combination of wood and concrete - chandeliers coming from the ceiling - and the cabinets."

"We wanted the feel of walking in to your best friends' wardrobe. There are wardrobes that work the same as simple hanging rails, small cabinets that resemble dressing tables, as well as details such as vases filled with crystal flowers, and frames - everything to make you feel like you're actually in that room," she added.

The lighting chandeliers are a major eye-catcher in the store. Bought in London and customised by a brand specialising in custom-made bling objects, Jake and Ji Ji, personalised the chandeliers using Swarovski crystals, beads and quirky badges.

Cut outs in the wall that look like picture frames in the first instance - but hold jewellery clutch bags, and other fancy pieces, are also signature element of the S*uce store - making the ‘best friends wardrobe' concept come ever-more to life.

As does the free-standing units, delicately hand-carved cabinets made of wood, and the stores ‘home-made S*uce' corner dedicated to featuring the works of local and regional fashion designers- whether ready-to-wear, accessories or lifestyle product design.

The changing rooms also took a major turn for the better according to Summers. "I love the changing rooms," she said. "Sauce is all about feminine fun. We are always trying to put some elements of fun, intriguing bits and pieces and details. The changing rooms have large hangers, and door handles made up of a mixture of sweets and little vintage pieces."

"We kept the original mirrors and I added everything from the handles, the hangers, and chairs, as well as really special details such as lighting - simple things like illuminating the mirrors from behind really makes a significant difference to the overall look of the space," she added.

Using contractor Deco to complete the fit out and installation process of the store, the ladies found that they were able to work creatively with them, in achieving the best design, without compromising sustainability. Design aspects and ideas that their contractor described as ‘fluffy, and fun', the practicality of actually executing these ideas was a different story.

"They (Deco) transformed a standard cabinet with intricate detail. Engravings, carvings in the wardrobes, brass door handles, benches with all the different legs, the seating - everything was literally done by hand - I cannot spot one thing that I would change," said Fujita-Summers.

Most importantly, although aesthetically pleasing, everything was built to last. "Some of the designs that I come up with initially were totally impossible in terms of sustainability. With others there were solutions to make it last, the brass rails for example, brass scratches, so we put a plastic top coat on it."

"We painted the floor gold - people that shop in Sauce, everything they wear is a hazard, high heals, rings, everything. High-heels in particular are a weapon to a painted floor - all these details were massively considered simply because it had to be. So, all of the paint finishes are scratch free, sourced from a company in Abu Dhabi."

"I don't like to get my materials from outside the country that I'm working in, if anything goes wrong (touch-wood) and it's not a product that's immediately available here, it could be disastrous. So strictly for maintenance purposes, it just works better this way," said Fujita-Summers.

"If you asked us a year ago there were many things that needed to change. Small things such as the changing rooms, when the shop was crowded there was nowhere to put the clothes, but there is now a rail there...just minor details. Now, I wouldn't change a thing." said Ghandour.

Set to open its latest chain in Dubai Mall, a design evolving from the current stores ‘wardrobe' concept - this time will be the ‘home' of your best friend.

"Sauce is ever-growing; we're almost set for the Dubai Mall opening, and already have an idea for a sixth store, so there's always something new," said Ghandour.

"The concepts, the ideas, the execution - our thoughts all come together very well to design something that's just that little bit different, and an extra bit unique. Using up-to-date elements in design, such as colours, and materials, we will make sure that we have something new to offer our customers in every new location," she added.

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