Paris | 60 Av. des Champs-Elysees | Galeries Lafayette
A store experience is a rather personal one. What one person loves in a store another may gloss over. External factors like mood, time of day or weather can also influence this perception. Knowing that, we often try to visit a store a few times before passing judgement. For this reason we decided to introduce a new type of review: “Two people walk into a store...” For the times where we just cannot agree, we break it down here.
Galeries Lafayette, a storied French department store, recently opened a new flagship on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. At 70,000 sq. ft. it is the largest store on the avenue. The store was designed by the global architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, the masterminds behind everything from Google’s campus in Mountain View to the LEGO House in Denmark. We visited Galeries Lafayette on separate occasions and walked away feeling totally different vibes.
"Most fun I’ve had in a department store in a long time"
I arrived at the former Virgin Mega Store location on the Champs Elysees with a big question mark floating over my head regarding how this space would work as a department store. When I arrived I was impressed by the futuristic, Tron-esque entrance way that made you feel like you were entering a different dimension. The wormhole delivers you into the main atrium where an event was taking place. The event was catered towards families and involved an artist paying tribute to Snoopy through related products.
The architecture, while "old bank" style grand was clearly contemporized by modern materials and design. The store felt like a grand emporium, yet retained the intimacy of a boutique concept store. The shoe and sunglass walls were highly designed and architectural in nature. Visually they were stunning. The store was organized into individual branded cubes, with no walls or ceilings, that each brand was able to make feel true to their own DNA. The energy was palpable and people were discovering, playing and shopping. This was the most fun I have had in a department store in a long time.
- Morty Singer
"I’d rather explore the streets of St. Germain"
I visited Galeries Lafayette during its opening week. It was 11pm but the store was open late to celebrate its first week and was filled with energy spilling out into the streets. The entryway is a futuristic looking glass tunnel (a la the Matrix or one of those sci fi movies). I was expecting to walk into “the store of the future” but instead entered an atrium that felt much more “the store of the past”. The first image that came to mind was a bank. The floor is dark marble flanked by grand stairways on each side leading upstairs to the first floor of merchandise. Between the staircases is a giant Eiffel tower with Chanel signage and mannequins. It felt kitschy and unapologetically touristy.
Wandering through the store I was again reminded of the initial futuristic aesthetic. For example, there is a whole wall of sunglasses displayed in a zig zag concrete design. Each of the sunglasses, many in eccentric shapes and colors, sits in its own cube. Upstairs there is yet another aesthetic at play. The cafe was light and playful filled with plants and flowers - beautiful but not futuristic nor grand. My feeling throughout was confusion - the merchandise was curated and modern but the store itself felt disjointed. Was it built for tourists or locals? Embracing a traditional aesthetic or modern one? While the shopping was good, I would rather spend my time exploring the streets of St. Germain then visit here again.
- Daniella Fischel
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