Jamie Taylor, of beauty brand L’Occitane en Provence, tells FX what his ambitions and strategy were in creating a flagship for the brand with FutureBrand UXUS
Words by Pamela Buxton
All Images: Michael Franke
What has your role been in relation to the new L’Occitane store?
I was responsible for the strategy for the London flagship, starting with identifying 74 Regent Street as the ideal location and then negotiating the lease with landlord The Crown Estate, securing planning and overseeing the appointment of the designers and the design process. L’Occitane has had the desire for a London flagship for some years but the right site hadn’t been available, so it’s been fabulous to have been able to deliver this for the brand.
Have you had experience as a design client before, and if so on what and with which designers/architects?
One of my previous roles had been to launch retail into the UK for Nespresso, coincidently just a few doors down from the L’Occitane flagship. It was good to have had that experience of developing a flagship store interior in the West End, although Nespresso handled its design internally.
What are the particular challenges of creating a retail environment for your type of products?
The beauty market is a saturated market and it can be a challenge to stand out. At L’Occitane we do this by creating memories through an immersive, experiential store design that includes a hand massage bar, beauty concierge and lounge cafe, as well as a personalised gift service with customised engraving, ribbon printing and wrapping. Our general manager comes from a luxury hospitality background and that’s the direction we’re going in – while being commercial and taking money is important, it’s also understanding the role of retail, which is about delighting our customer with an amazing brand experience.
L’Occitane en Provence flagship store in London, designed by FutureBrand UXUS
How did you go about choosing designers?
We wrote a brief driven by our brand values, commercial needs and extensive research, and then worked with agency finder Oystercatchers to find the right design agency for the project. Together we drew up a longlist and reduced it to a shortlist after meetings to determine ‘chemistry’. The three finalists then presented pitches in response to our brief.
Why did you choose FutureBrand UXUS?
It was a very, very close call – all three shortlisted agencies had retail design expertise and answered the brief very well, and very differently. In the end it came down to chemistry, and to their understanding of how they could bring a modern twist to the L’Occitane DNA. FutureBrand UXUS produced a sensorial film of its vision for the flagship and was very strong on how it’d bring that to life. We particularly liked the premium nature of its design, and that it was a design that would attract all genders and ages.
What were your ambitions for the design of the L’Occitane flagship?
We wanted to bring to life our core brand values of authenticity, sensoriality, respect and entrepreneurism, and at the same time bring the spirit of Provence to London. In many ways, the new store is emulating what we already do but magnifying that to reflect its flagship status, with personalisation and customisation at its core. For example, we already deliver hand and arm massages but in the new store we’ve created a special pampering hand-massage bar where up to three people can have the experience together.
We’re taking it to another level. We’ve also introduced a personal beauty concierge service upstairs for those who want to have their consultation in private, and our new L’Occitane Lounge offers a premium cafe experience. All these increase dwell time. At 440 sq m over two floors, the flagship store is much bigger than our other 74 UK outlets and allows us to host events, which is a great way of bringing the brand to life.
Gold steps lead up to the first-floor private consulation rooms
How does the design succeed in providing ‘a luxurious and sensorial’ exploration of the L’Occitane range and its Provence roots?
We’ve designed a complete sensorial experience by stimulating the senses so that customers can experience the beautiful textures, fragrances and sounds of Provence. Further to this, sunshine-yellow and rose-gold accents flood the space with a warm glow.
Smell is important – we love to bring all our scents to life in the store by spritzing and we’re also looking into diffusing. On the ground floor there’s a fragrance garden while above this there’s a beautiful digital screen with engaging content. We’re bringing Provence to London not only visually and aromatically but also through taste – at Regent’s Street we’ve introduced macarons by Pierre Hermé as part of our new lounge cafe concept that complement the fragrance of our hand creams. We also have bespoke playlists that change with the mood of the day.
Lighting plays a very important part in creating the mood. We’ve recreated the ‘golden hour’ that is experienced in late afternoon in Provence using a special ring of ceiling lighting in combination with yellow tiling around a circular cut-out up to the first floor.
We also highlight one of our charity pillars, which is preventing avoidable blindness, in the store by including a plaque on it and by having Braille on product packaging.
How does the design encourage customers to share images of the store on social media?
We have a selfie-studio on the first floor, a booth with props such as hats and enlarged L’Occitane products and Pierre Hermé macarons, where customers can take photos of themselves against a Provence backdrop and share on social media. We also have a chandelier of fresh flowers on the ground floor, which is also a very popular Instagrammable area.
What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of working as a design client on the new L’Occitane flagship?
The hardest thing was the timing. It was very challenging to get everything done to the level we wanted in time, with only nine months from the designer being chosen to the opening of the store. Site logistics were tricky too – we had a hotel opposite and retail on either side and had to be very respectful of these neighbours. Also, the building we’re in is listed on the upper levels.
But it was very rewarding on the day of opening to stand back and see that we had brought a completely sensorial experience of Provence to the heart of London’s West End.
The design from FutureBrand UXUS brings the ambience and smells of Provence into the store
What was it like working with FutureBrand UXUS?
FutureBrand UXUS was great, and we’re still in regular dialogue with the practice. It’s now one of our true partners. We’re really pleased with the store – the customer feedback has been brilliant so we know that our customers really like it. We were very excited about what we could achieve in the run up to Christmas, where our personalised gifting really came into its own.
Jamie Taylor is retail, property and wholesale director at beauty brand L'Occitane en Provence