LONDON — Forget experiential retail: One brand is now promoting existential retail.
The Korea-based retail brand Harlan + Holden is taking consumption to a philosophical plane by removing familiar elements from the shop floor and offering customers the time and space to think — and live in the now.
The brand’s new flagship, which will span 2,260 square feet, is set to open in the spring at Lotte World Mall in Seoul. It wants to be “a retreat” from the busy shopping mall atmosphere; conjure a Zen, meditative air, and put the focus on mindfulness and saving time.
There will be no cash desks on the shop floor, or assistants processing payments. Instead, customers will be able to swipe their credit cards in machines to pay. The store is also promising a maximum of three minutes to wrap a customer’s purchase from the moment their card is swiped.
In keeping with its efficiency ethos, the shop is located in a tier-one location. Harlan + Holden said it doesn’t want its customers making trips to any special destinations because that would take too much time.
Founded in 2015 in Manila, The Philippines, by Emmanuel Pineda, the brand is headquartered in Seoul and offers women’s clothing, with men’s wear to come.
Harlan + Holden already has 20 retail stores in South Korea, Indonesia and The Philippines. It sells online at harlanholden.com and also operates a string of coffee shops, known as Because Coffee, which have a similar, time-saving ethos. Customers don’t have to line up at a counter or wait long for their brew.
The clothing brand believes in “one-step dressing,” hence its offer of slip-on, slip-off clothing in easy-care fabrics and the decision to eschew zippers, buttons and hooks.
“We are a society that is constantly looking at the clock while being blissfully unaware of the time,” said Pineda, whose title is president. “We lose ourselves in the mundane boring parts of life instead of focusing on what truly matters to us. So, the mission to save you time was born.”
The brand designs seasonless pieces and said it always keeps clients’ morning routines, and daily calendars, in mind. Its manifesto: “Our clothes free the minds of our clients, allowing them to think of the bigger, more important things in their lives.”
Because they are seasonless, the collections never go on sale and the clothing and color palettes are meant to work together throughout the year.
Five years into the business, the brand is shifting into high gear, and has hired the London-based David Chipperfield Associates Shanghai to design the flagship at Lotte World Mall. It has also hired the designer Alessandra Facchinetti as its first creative director. Her first collection, 9bc, will be released in June.
The shop has been designed with a sense of calm and efficiency in mind, with large, uncluttered windows, allowing potential customers to view the interiors before going in. An entire window, meanwhile, has been given over to the brand’s manifesto, which is all about saving time, and focusing on pleasures other than shopping.
The shop has been done in matte, neutral-toned plaster and terra-cotta and its rippled facade is meant to echo the pleats on some of its knitwear styles.
“It has a very suspended atmosphere,” said Facchinetti of the store interior. During an interview in Paris, she added that the dressing rooms are warm and soft-edged, with felt curtains and a calm, pale color palette.
David Chipperfield Architects Shanghai designed the space and said the terra-cotta frontage is “rich” while plaster interiors are more plain. “They both offer a sense of integrity and confidence. Everything is built with purpose and ease,” a spokesperson for Chipperfield said.
The shop floor is a combination of open-plan and defined rooms. When visitors walk in, they’re not meant to see the clothes immediately. They’re meant to walk into the rooms to discover the collections.
Pineda said Facchinetti’s role is to evolve the brand image and mission, design and develop collections, and oversee all communications.
He said he can still remember “the elegant shapes” of Facchinetti’s first collections for Gucci and Valentino. The two were introduced by a mutual friend, and he quickly discovered that they saw eye to eye.
“Alessandra showed so much respect for the brand, its values and its mission,” Pineda said.
Facchinetti worked with the Tokyo-based creative agency Wieden + Kennedy to conceptualize and create the brand slogan, “Ain’t Got Time for That.”
Harlan + Holden’s theory is that people overthink, question, second-guess every little thing and waste “precious minutes, hours and days brooding over what has passed or what will be. We’ve lost focus on what’s important, forgetting the very reason the moment we are in: the present.”
For her part, Facchinetti said she’s charting new territory in fashion as “I don’t have to think anymore about trends. It is refreshing, and connects me with real people,” she said.
Harlan + Holden, she added, is about daily basics and the collections are divided into clothing for everyday, travel and leisure. The approach is always the same: “How can we save time dressing ourselves?”
While the focus is on rtw, there is one shoe style, a slip-on that has no laces or complications.