From the moment Australian Fashion Labels owners Mel and Dean Flintoft flicked the switch on their first flagship store – it was on. CityMag investigates the design details behind BNKR as it transforms from bits and pixels to bricks and mortar.
BNKR: The first flagship store
The website Fashion Bunker, now known simply as BNKR, was initially created as a way for Adelaide-based fashion house Australian Fashion Labels to deal with returns and dead stock created by their labels Cameo, Keepsake, Finders Keepers, Jaggar and The Fifth Label. However, the online store has grown into a more consumer-facing platform that connects with fans in Australia and across the globe.
160 Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Mon, Tues, Wed
and Thurs – 9am–6pm
With revenue and recognition growing, the mood at this innovative business turned more traditional.
A deep desire within the leadership team at Australian Fashion Labels emerged around creating a physical space that would give greater context to the business and, more importantly, the culture that their fashion fits into. With ambition to open stores in Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles and New York – hometown Adelaide had to come first.
Speaking with eCommerce and Digital Director at Australian Fashion Labels, Jared Brown, CityMag learns that having a physical showcase for the labels is an integral part of the strategy to grow BNKR online.
“The store allows our customers to get to know the labels,” says Jared.
“They can see the collections without having to commit to an online purchase. It’s really great for building consumer trust and giving a face to the business, which is still very hard to do online. We have found that the majority of our customers become both loyal online and in-store customers choosing to use the channel that suits them best at the time.”
Turning bits and pixels into bricks and mortar however, is no easy task.
Owner and Creative Director of multi-disciplinary design firm Xtra Shiny, Adam Johnson, says his brief from Australian Fashion Labels was short and sweet.
“They wanted clean, flexible and, most of all, they wanted this store to hold its own anywhere in the world,” says Adam.
Jared adds that it was important the flagship store be a reflection of how happy they were with BNKR’s online aesthetic too.
“We wanted a store design that we could replicate in future flagship stores so that customers will always know when they are in a BNKR store,” he says.
Jared is also keenly aware of the separate advantages the online and on-street platform have.
“In-store we can offer personal shopping, the ability to touch the fabrics and see the range displayed as a whole, while online can reach every corner of the globe, be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on any device and from wherever you would like to buy – be that at work, home or riding a bus!”
The team responsible for getting BNKR onto busses is the small but nimble digital agency, Lightbulb Digital.
Operating from a small loft space above Realstore in RundleEast, Lightbulb’s Director Morgan Martin-Skerm and team weren’t responsible for the design of the site but rather the building of the dot com.
“The perception of digital work is that it’s a 1 and 0 (right and wrong) kind of world,” says Morgan.
“We feel that one of the biggest challenges with a site is creating something that not only looks good but also feels good. There are a lot of little intangible things we implement to ensure the sites feel smooth and work well even under heavy load. We can spend hours on just one little transition effect or the way a page responds to somebody clicking a button.”
So for Adam at Xtra Shiny, coming in at the end, after the digital platform had been established and with five different fashion labels to wrangle into one space it was important to get it right.
“The name ‘Bunker’ was the natural jumping off point,” says Adam.
Looking through the ranges from the five different fashion labels and consulting with Mel, Dean, Jared and the head designers at Australian Fashion Labels he quickly discovered the contradiction he had to marry: fashion forward and sleek items at an affordable price point.
“The interior of this shop couldn’t be too luxe… or too pedestrian,” says Adam.
“High contrast between rough urban textures and high polish were at the core of the concept. Street-facing window displays were given pride-of-place, along with large comfortable fitting rooms. The colour and material palate was intentionally kept very natural. Concrete, American oak, tan aniline leather, mottled grey wool textiles, goat hair carpet – plus raw mild steel ensure that focus was drawn to what mattered most… the garments,” he says.