Innisfree selected NYC-based design agency, Mapos, to create a one-of-a-kind New York experience for their new 1600 s.f. location in Midtown Manhattan. The primary challenge was to effectively convey the natural and light feel of the world’s leading K-Beauty brand while embracing the context of New York City, a place known for the juxtapositions of glamour, grittiness, bright lights, and scaffolding.
The most unique and important aspect of Innisfree is that all of their product ingredients come from one very special place: Jeju Island, a small volcanic island off the Southern coast of South Korea known for its lush plant life and many endemic species. A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is referred to as the “Hawaii of South Korea”. The story of the island and its natural resources are central to the Innisfree product story. Their products are derived from mineral-rich volcanic rock and water, as well as the diverse tropical plant-life covering the island.
Mapos started by embracing the NYC context of the space. Floors, walls and columns were stripped down to unfinished steel and concrete, and dropped ceilings were removed, so that the rawness of the existing space could be celebrated. Mapos then went about layering their new interpretation of the brand onto this unadorned canvas.
Two concepts drive the design and organization of the space: The Island and Scaffolding.
Considering that both Jeju and Manhattan are islands, albeit diametrically opposed in so many ways, Mapos took the “Island” concept to be a central organizing theme of the store. An 18-foot long free form island is centrally located, pierced by a monumental double story column, and seemingly carved from black lava-rock. Integrated into the top of this island is an explorable landscape of lush plants, testable product, real lava rock, Jeju island stories, a custom washbasin and recycling area where guests can return their empty product bottles (a feature of every Innisfree store world-wide). Exploring this table draws visitors into the store and eventually around the entire space, like a hike around the island.
In the ever-changing New York City landscape, scaffolding is an unpleasant fact of life, but an undeniable component that residents and visitors alike must navigate. Mapos took the idea of the scaffolding in NYC as a concept for the space, but turned it on its ear by asking the question: “Rather than being an obstacle to beauty, how can scaffolding be the catalyst for it?” Mapos studied how a newly designed scaffold could hold plants, lighting, products, and glass panels. Stripping the scaffold down to its essential elements and making it a bright white to contrast the gritty textures of the space. Mapos then introduced this scaffolding as the interior wrapper for the entire space, like a beautifying intervention into what would be an otherwise drab interior.
While the lower half of the scaffold is entirely dedicated to Innisfree’s bright and colorful product offering, the upper portion becomes a deconstructed plant wall and cityscape. Mapos created integrated bifold glass doors with randomly placed planter boxes and integrated lighting in this upper zone. It was inspired by the unreachable but beautiful upper landscape of the city, often seen, but high above the reach of the city sidewalks.
Another key feature integrated into the scaffold structure is a double-height high-resolution LED wall featuring 4K content from Jeju Island. This monumental wall features beautiful films of the island landscape, and is large enough to be easily seen by passersby from across Lexington Avenue.
The back of the store features Innisfree’s color products, along with a tea lounge where customers can sit in comfortable lounge chairs, surrounded by plants and scaffolding, and take a moment to sample green tea from Jeju while Instagramming their new looks. Tucked behind this scaffold is a partially hidden stairway. Covered from floor to ceiling in stainless steel subway tiles, the stairway leads up to an intimate room where the brand has created a flex space for classes, events, or just expanded tea service during the day. This space actually overlooks the front of the store and the street beyond, and can be opened to the space below via custom bi-fold glass and steel windows. The crow’s nest view back to the street becomes a fitting and dramatic end to a journey through this new and exciting space, like a satisfying view from the top of the island.