Byline: Melissa Drier

BERLIN — The transformation of Bally into a modern luxury brand has moved into its retail phase with the unveiling of the Swiss firm’s bold new store concept.
Designed by Australian architect Craig Bassam in collaboration with Bally creative director Scott Fellows, the prototype stresses clear architectural lines and a flexible modular system that dispenses with standard shelves and fixed units.
A team of Swiss cabinetmakers entirely encased the floors, ceilings and walls of the two-level, 3,000-square-foot space, located at 219 Kurfurstendamm in Berlin, in solid oak, creating what Bassam aptly described as a “beautiful, crafted box.” Every piece was painstakingly laid out and numbered in the factory in Switzerland and then “put together like a big jigsaw puzzle in Berlin,” Fellows said.
The second key design component is white lacquered display blocks in several shapes and heights that can be arranged in numerous ways.
“We didn’t want complicated cases or anything that consumers wouldn’t have access to,” Fellows said. “The blocks are simple pedestals, like those used in a museum to present sculpture.”
Bally is using the blocks to present shoes, handbags, belts and small leather accessories. Bassam also designed walnut tray tables with a Scandinavian Modern feel, which display scarves, ties, small leather goods and even a woven leather bikini.
There are also red lacquered wood trays, which can be pulled out from behind mirrored panels set into the walls. The remaining furniture is comprised of Bassam’s carved walnut stools, ottomans, a sofa and bench in the firm’s new signature tan grained leather and oxidized brass racks, which hold ready-to-wear on the second floor.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Bally store design is its versatility. The windows of the store are a two-story expanse of glass, flush with the street, that offer an unfettered view from inside and outside. The store does not, however, show merchandise in the traditional sense.
“We’ve removed window display totally,” Fellows said. “What you see through the window is the entire store and the whole visual merchandising is about the store, not the windows. Rather than change the windows every month, we’ll change the store every month.”
The blocks will be moved around, according to design instructions that will be sent from Bally headquarters in Caslano, Switzerland.
“Right now, handbags and shoes are on the ground floor,” said Fellows. “Maybe next month, it’ll be jackets. The possibilities with this modular system are almost infinite and customers coming by will always see something new. You’ve got to come up with new things to keep people interested.”
The store design marks the last piece of the Bally transformation that began 18 months ago when the Texas Pacific Group took over the venerable, but somewhat musty, Swiss company. Spring marked the unveiling of new product lines, and a new advertising campaign and tweaking of the logo have also been unveiled. The firm’s retail network also underwent considerable paring down, eliminating over 100 locations that were inconsistent with the brand’s new luxury positioning.
“We spent part of 2000 cleaning up, and now the focus is to take those locations and upgrade and renovate them, creating spaces that get across the whole Bally lifestyle image,” said Fellows, adding that there are 170 company-operated stores and about 100 franchises mainly in the Mideast and China that remain.
A major renovation of Bally’s Beverly Hills store on Rodeo Drive is being planned for completion in spring 2002. That unit will be expanded from one floor to two, offering about 7,000 square feet of selling space. The company is also near to closing a deal on a shop in Tokyo, Fellows said, adding that the Heathrow shop in London’s main airport will be redone before the Christmas season, and the Zurich, Milan and London Bond Street stores are all getting “refreshed.”