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September 17, 2014

The making of Aesop Rundle Street

The design of Aesop’s new flagship Adelaide store is a significant departure from the installation-focused space the company opened here in 2008. This aesthetic evolution reflects the changing nature of the brand itself.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster

When Aesop first contacted Adelaide designer Ryan Genesin he assumed the company wanted to sell him some of its skincare products.


Visit the store at 232 Rundle Street, Adelaide.

“Once we worked out they were chasing us up for work it was a really cool thing,” he says. “They cold-called me. We’d won some awards for some other projects so they dug us up and it was really nice being called up by them.”

After a series of presentations, meeting and briefings with Aesop, Ryan was given the go-ahead to start developing concepts for the new store.

Aesop’s original Adelaide shopfront was located in Adelaide Central Plaza, where the small store made a big impact with its wave-like installation of medicine bottles that hung from the ceiling. The new location – a heritage shopfront with prominent pedestrian exposure on Rundle Street – required a different approach not just because the space demanded it, but also because the company’s reach was expanding.

“We came on at the cusp of change,” says Ryan. “The company has been growing internationally and because of that there are a lot of guidelines on laying things out. So as a designer I then need to find avenues to be creative within that framework.”

“The materiality was something very important to get right and that was open slather – what I used was very much up to me and what I thought would work.”

To develop a material pallette Ryan reflected on the sensual nature of the brand, delving into what he called the “intimate moments” that often occur as customers’ hands are massaged and washed by Aesop staff.

“We wanted to acknowledge and accentuate the heritage bones of the site by amplifying its details…” – Leon Goh

Combining these considerations with the necessity to be sensitive to the existing nature of the space with its high ceilings and mostly-glass façade, Ryan settled on a mix of warmth and strength.

His final material choices were highlighted by Aesop’s Asia Pacific manager of retail development, Leon Goh, as being a particularly successful blend of the brand’s personality with Adelaide’s character.

“We wanted to acknowledge and accentuate the heritage bones of the site by amplifying its details, using a pared back but sophisticated material palette,” says Leon. “Timber parquetry, timber shelving juxtaposed with materials like steel and marble not only adds a sense of calm to the space but also speaks to our clientele in a refined and confident manner.”

Featuring two offset island counters – one which includes washbasins and taps – the store encourages customers to circulate through to convenient spots where they can encounter staff. It is unusually large for an Aesop store and includes a back area that looks a lot like a lounge, something Ryan says is designed to give room for people to indulge in some of Aesop’s other passions – such as coffee, tea and literature.

While these new elements and a more consistent style of interiors signal an evolution of the brand, Aesop remains sure of what is most important to them.

“Our product remains at the core of the brand,” says Leon.“…In all of our store designs we place an external 500ml of our Resurrection Hand Balm on the façade. We know the moment that people place this product on their hands there is a high probability that they will enter and engage with us further. The store’s design and materiality is essentially how we frame and present our products in the best manner possible.”

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