SHANGHAI — After a three-month delay, OTB finally revealed its grand ambition for the China market in Shanghai’s JC Plaza mall, occupying a busy street corner on Nanjing Road, the luxury boulevard of Shanghai.
As OTB’s most important retail development project in China to date, the large-scale facades of Maison Margiela, Jil Sander, Marni and Amiri were erected opposite the likes of Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermès and Dior across the street at Plaza 66, and became a sight in itself when the project was revealed last year.
At JC Plaza, the legacy hotel turned luxury shopping mall, OTB brands became the apparent star of the show.
Spanning a total area of 25,833 square feet, the four stores also include exhibition spaces and interactive areas.
The Jil Sander store is the brand’s first in China. The German fashion label, now designed by Luke and Lucie Meier, was acquired by OTB in March 2021 from Onward Holdings Co. Ltd.
It’s also Amiri’s first store in the market. OTB took a minority stake last June in the Los Angeles-based brand founded by Mike Amiri. For Maison Margiela, this is the brand’s largest flagship in the world.
According to Renzo Rosso, founder and president of OTB, the decision to put all four “alternative luxury” brands under the same roof was quick, noting how difficult it was to find a prominent space in the city’s central shopping hub.
“We can put all our luxury brands together and show our muscles. That was the idea,” Rosso said. “Everyone passing by JC Plaza can see our brands. It gave us fantastic visibility.
“I want our brands to be global, but also connect with the locals. You can foster this connection with a special store, a special capsule. You can connect with the locals if you have a relation with the country,” Rosso continued. “We are not so big in China now, but the potential is obvious.”
OTB Group has around 80 flagship stores in 19 cities in China. Planning to cement its position as “The Brave & Alternative Luxury Group,” OTB plans to dedicate a third of global investments to China over the next three years, and to double the number of its stores by 2024.
“China is one of the most relevant markets and will play an essential role in the future of our group,” Rosso said. “For this reason, we will increase our investments in the country in the next two years.”
OTB is the owner of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Staff Staff International and Brave Kid, plus holding a minority investment in Amiri.
The group has an ambitious target of 20 percent year-over-year organic growth to reach revenues of between 2.4 billion and 2.5 billion euros in 2024, OTB chief executive officer Ubaldo Minelli told WWD in February.
Rosso last November also identified 2024 as the year for a possible initial public offering of the group.
The high-profile JC Plaza location is making its debut as Shanghai buckles down for another round of COVID-19 community outbreaks. But that didn’t stop the fashion crowd from visiting the OTB shops with gusto, as long as they have a 24-hour COVID-19 test in tow.
All four stores have found their voice and character through rigorous interior design and merchandising. Art spaces, homeware and floral displays add a personal touch from the creatives behind the brand, offering a new luxury proposition to cater to the young generation of luxury shoppers in China.
Known for using innovative materials with a sculptural lean, the Jil Sander designers worked with London-based designer John Pawson to construct a monastic yet airy space filled with floral arrangements executed by Shanghai-local flower shop Absolute.
“Shanghai fuels our imagination,” the Meiers said. “We have the feeling that it resonates with what we do. It is a dream of a city, a crossroads of cultures, and we wanted to have a presence there since we started our work at Jil Sander.”
Muted light-yellow walls that are a signature of the brand, pops of red-brown Chinese granite flooring, and accordion-like structures are the brand’s subtle way of echoing local character. “He [Pawson] respects the different locations: extracting their essence in a very concise and precise manner,” the Meiers said.
The 6,458-square-foot space is home to men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections, coed accessories and shoes on the ground floor.
Smoke trees, designed by Luke Meier and a signature brand motif, spread across the first-floor ceiling, adding a sense of ease and aroma to the almost monastic space.
A spiral staircase leads shoppers to the second-floor area, where Jil Sander+ collections and a new project, Jil Sander Flora, are displayed.
At Jil Sander Flora, a library of plant and flower installations will rotate monthly and be available for purchase.
In a discreet corner of the second floor sits a circular VIP room, enveloped in muted greens and meditative lighting. It aims to elevate the Jil Sander shopping experience to something beyond a scan of the digital payment QR code.
Maison Margiela has continued its collaboration with Dutch architect Anne Holtrop to convey the visual language of Margiela’s creative director John Galliano.
The 5,382-square-foot space continues the idea of “appropriating the inappropriate,” according to a statement from the Paris-based brand, which counts eight stores in mainland China, including four in Shanghai, two in Chengdu, one in Beijing and one in Ningbo.
The ground floor houses Margiela’s men’s and women’s rtw collection, coed collection, resort collection and accessories, featuring exclusive products such as The Glam Slam hobo just seen on Eileen Gu during Paris Couture Week, and limited-edition patchwork sneakers.
Rendered in white, off-white, beige, light gray and black, the ground floor interior harks back to the white-painted “bianchetto” branding of the house. Humble materials such as raw concrete, felt, and cast natural gypsum are brought into contrast with black marble, gray and beige paladiana of travertine and lava stone enamel.
The upper floor is home to a VIC salon that can only be accessed via an immersive installation space dedicated to The Glam Slam, the brand’s popular quilted cloud-shaped handbag.
Customers can order made-to-measure handbags as part of the “Glam Slam Anthology” concept, or enjoy two felt-covered “selfie rooms,” one of which also features an interactive selfie booth.
The second floor accommodates the first store-in-store Replica fragrance area and the Maison Margiela Café, the first for Shanghai and the second in the world.
As the brand’s first store outside the U.S. market, the JC Plaza outlet marks Amiri’s fifth retail location after New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
“We wanted to connect the spirit of Los Angeles with Shanghai,” said Mike Amiri, CEO and creative director of the brand known for its luxury take on West Coast rock ‘n’ roll aesthetics. “The aim was to create a sophisticated, welcoming environment that reflects our design codes and craftsmanship, creating an urban escape for our customers to fully immerse themselves in the world of Amiri.”
The brand worked with Parisian design studio Nocod to conceive a light-filled space with plants from the designer’s native California.
Spanning 6,243 square feet, the store boasts an all-white interior combined with suspended stainless-steel rails, marble touches and solid wood shelving. Selfie-friendly large-scale mirrors throughout the store serve to reflect more natural light to the space.
The ground floor is devoted to men’s and women’s rtw, footwear and accessories, while the second floor introduces a more intimate yet interactive space filled with modernist furniture, Californian plants and plush rugs. The space also features homeware objects, the men’s resort collection, and expressive paintings by Chinese artist Li Zhongshi.
Bathed in warm sunlight during the day, the lounge area directly overlooks Plaza 66’s Hermès store across the street. A pool table and ample seating areas invite shoppers to linger and play, or perhaps purchase: the custom-made game piece, only available at the JC Plaza store, retails for around 500,000 renminbi, or $74,573.
With the Marni in-house architectural team, the Italian brand’s creative director Francesco Risso created a playful space with exposed concrete ceilings, silver-coated display areas, and lots of red, which the brand describes as an “emblematic shade,” while also echoing the Marni logo.
The Chinese Valentine’s Day collection and women’s pre-fall collection hang atop curved gold-metal racks, a signature of the store, on the first floor.
Marni’s men’s and women’s rtw collections, bags and accessories, as well as made-to-order sartorial suits under the Marni Attolini collaboration, take up the second floor.
By adding a mezzanine in-between the two floors to house the exhibition area “Vessel for Creativity,” Risso and the team introduced an “alien, disruptive element” to the shop.
The womb-like art space is designed by The Wilson Brothers and Brinkworth.
The inaugural exhibition features artworks by Chinese artist Nathan Zhou, who’s known for his Basquiat-like scribbles and high-contrast artwork. This is the first time a Cantonese artist has worked with a luxury brand.
By turning the traditional shopping experience on its head, Risso wanted the store to have “a sense of hub and community” while “transposing the energy that hovers in our atelier into the store design and offering visitors the freedom to experience the retail space in a different way.”