Showfields, the 14,000-square-foot space at 11 Bond Street in Manhattan’s SoHo, has always insisted on inhabiting a space somewhere between retail and theater. Now, House of Showfields is the next incarnation of that idea.
The new immersive concept begins with a graphic black-and-white-striped slide ride from the third floor to the second floor, where a cast of actors leads guests through a 20-minute experience. “We closed all the windows and covered the floors with moss,” said Tal Zvi Nathanel, cofounder and chief executive officer of Showfields. “The slide leads to this crazy forest.”
Spa attendants may introduce Nuria, a skin-care brand, or an actor playing a chef might ask for help cleaning the kitchen using Skura’s smart sponge.
“There’s a wall with projection-mapping. The store is evolving into the next phase of brick-and-mortar, taking consumers on a journey that optimizes all of their senses,” Nathanel said. “We want to provide consumers with an experience of magical realism that merges performance art with retail as they discover their favorite brands.”
Combining shopping with theater has its challenges. During its early days, Showfields took consumers’ desire for instant gratification for granted. “One of the biggest discoveries we made was that customers want to shop and walk out with a product,” said Nathanel. “We’re building a platform and curating brands whose products you can take home.”
The Council of Fashion Designers of America, which is curating a space on the second floor of Showfields, chose footwear brand Isa Tapia. Klarna x Daniel Wellington allows consumers to buy watches using its easy payment solution, and Saint James, a French brand, has been making striped basics since 1889. Brand Assembly features emerging brands such as All Things Fabulous, Freedom, Le Specs and Press Pause Project.
Treasures of New York City, which collects and sells 20-year-old designer items, including a trove of Chanel and Fendi handbags, has the biggest presentation of any brand on the second floor. Nathanel, who said the company authenticates products, added, “We’re selling a $1,000 handbag from a hot dog stand.” Other props include a New York Post newspaper dispenser, which Nathanel said came from his personal collection.
Holdovers from the first wave of the launch include Quip toothbrushes; The Farmer’s Dog, homemade food, and Meural, digital art frames and connected canvases.
Brands at Showfields pay a membership fee. Nathanel said there are four categories: emerging brands, such as Creagh, a collection of handbags made from Italian leather, and priced from $295 to $795; anchor brands; legacy brands, and platforms such as Klarna.
A bar and lounge on the third floor with sapphire and burgundy velvet chairs and stools has been branded Boodles British Gin for the launch of a new pink gin. “There’s a book case with a secret revolving door,” Nathanel said. “It leads to an elevator designed by one of the brand hosts.”
The Lab, a large room at the end of the journey, cues up all the products, with space for trying and applying skin-care products, and mirrors for checking out apparel and accessories. “The Lab is a transactional environment,” Nathanel said. “Small brands that can’t pay the full membership fee can start out in The Lab.”
Nathanel said Showfields did its first funding round for its opening last March and is working on the next round. “The goal is to reach hundreds of locations,” he said, adding that another location will bow before the end of the year. He ruled out a second New York unit, but declined to say where the second one will be. Two additional stores are planned for 2020.