Talking about the revenge of the physical store is not wrong at all. Several small businesses have, in fact, taken it by deciding to invest in new locations or even by opening their first store after having already consolidated their business on other channels or by going against any virtuous model and preferring to launch their brand in a physical space, receiving customers on appointment only. During the pandemic period, physical stores seemed destined for extinction and it was hard to imagine them making a comeback. In the listing that follows, we have selected what we call "post litteram ateliers", stores where customer relations are unique although the experience always revolves around an analogical touch, which seems to be more and more appealing in the world of luxury. Physical spaces that become places of sharing and connection, experiencing digitalization as an opportunity to keep the traditions of the trade alive.
3. GIULIA TAMBURINI
5. JESSICA MCCORMACK
6. VILLA MILANO
WHO: FRANK OCEAN
WHY: THE HOMER BRAND'S FIRST JEWELRY STORE RECEIVES BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, AND DOES NOT SELL ONLINE. A SORT OF ATELIER 2.0 IN A DESIGN CONTEXT.
WHERE: NEW YORK, USA
Exclusiveness is the key to understanding the success of the Homer brand, founded by American singer-songwriter Christopher Edwin Breaux, aka Frank Ocean. The indie brand made its debut on the market last August with a collection of fine jewelry available only at The New York Jewelers Exchange, 70-74 Bowery, in Manhattan. Its particularity? The store, created in collaboration with architects Michael Abel and Nile Greenberg from Any studio, is accessible only on appointment and the collections have no e-commerce outlet: any international orders can be placed by phone. Homer is a sort of post litteram atelier, where the relationship is unique and personal with an analogical touch, something that seems to be increasingly popular in the luxury world. In fact, the experience begins and ends at the store, which unlike a traditional boutique, reproduces the packaging in an extra-large version, exploiting the ductility of aluminum and polyurethane. Already an exclusive destination among New York's elite, Homer is unique in its genre, a malleable container that ranges from jewelry to one-of-a-kind collaborations, such as co-branding with Prada. The partnership between Frank Ocean and the Milanese fashion house has resulted in a mini capsule of just three items: an anorak, a backpack and a belt bag, available only at the New York store.
WHO: GUILHEM AND OLIVIER FAIVRE D’ARCIER, FOUNDERS
WHY: THE NEW PARIS BOUTIQUE IS THE BACKDROP FOR THE PSM (PERSTA SUR MESURE) COLLECTION, WHERE JEWELRY IS CREATED AND DESIGNED TOGETHER WITH THE CUSTOMER
WHERE: PARIS, FRANCE
«Physical contact is still essential in the world of jewelry,» says Guilhem Faivre d'Arcier, co-founder with brother Olivier, of Persta, a young company that aims to reinterpret the codes of traditional jewelry to inspire future generations. Inaugurated last October, the brand's first boutique is located in the heart of Paris, in the Marais, a district bubbling with cultural ferment: «We are surrounded by art galleries, it's an authentic artistic area. Being immersed in this kind of energy is essential to the brand's identity,» Guilhem explains. But why open a physical store at a time when e-commerce is becoming increasingly more important for everyone? «The new space is not only a boutique; it is also, and above all, a creation workshop. It is where we make our collections now. We wanted to offer our customers a real experience, meet them and have a direct link by showing how the jewelry is created. Our business grew thanks to e-commerce, which played a strategic role during the pandemic, but we felt the need to have a larger space where we could develop the new PSM (Persta Sur Mesure) line, welcome customers and discuss and design the unique jewelry of their dreams together. Although the space is a single brand, it aims to highlight other talents, to be a place of sharing and connection, to welcome artists from different backgrounds. The store’s ceiling is one huge glass roof giving the impression of being outdoors. The entire area is monochrome: Tadelakt beige creates a balance between a warm Mediterranean atmosphere and modern, minimalist and pure aesthetics that always enhances jewelry. The workshop area is traditional, with wooden workbenches, built according to traditional craftsmanship. It's a space that suits us and evolves with us.»
WHO: GIULIA TAMBURINI, DESIGNER AND FOUNDER
WHY: A PHYSICAL YET INTERACTIVE ATELIER WITH AN EXHIBITION AREA AND OPEN WORKSHOP
WHERE: MILAN, ITALY
«Together with my brother Francesco, an expert in the world of communication, we have worked on an e-commerce with the idea of making a trip to my artisan workshop a digital experience. This is where I work on the conception, design and production of each item of jewelry, respecting the traditions of classic Italian artisan goldsmithing, all without any kind of industrial process.» The words of Giulia Tamburini last year as she launched her first e-shop to mark an important occasion, the brand's 10th anniversary. Her website offers the chance to browse 220 pieces of jewelry, all customizable in selected combinations of metals (silver, bronze, white, yellow and red gold) and gems. Now, a year later, the Milanese artisan goldsmith's journey takes yet another step forward with the opening of a physical store consisting of an exhibition area and open workshop. The process of digitizing craftsmanship thus runs parallel to an operation in the physical world that aims to enhance and keep the traditions of a craft that might otherwise be lost alive. The new atelier is located in an internal courtyard at viale Piave 5, in the heart of Milan’s Porta Venezia district: here Giulia receives each client by appointment, which can be arranged online on the designer's website, so as to make every meeting exclusive and to be able to show everyone where each item of jewelry is conceived, designed and made by hand.
WHO: NOURA SAKKIJHA, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO
WHY: THE FIRST BOUTIQUE IN EUROPE OF THE AMERICAN BRAND, WHICH APPEARS LIKE AN ELEGANT LIVING ROOM WHERE YOU CAN MAKE A FULL IMMERSION IN MEJURI STYLE
WHERE: LONDON, ENGLAND
It has become famous in a short time, thanks to the use of noble and sustainable materials, a perfect design for everyday life and affordable prices. Mejuri, a Torontobased brand with stores in Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Austin, has recently arrived in Europe for the first time, with a store in the UK capital. Last September, right in the heart of Marylebone Village - 96 Marylebone High St - the jewelry brand opened the doors to a two-story space, designed in natural nuances and made of light wood profiled with touches of gold. The boutique offers the opportunity to relax in a real living room, enhance personal creativity and enjoy style advice by the concierg
WHO: JESSICA MCCORMACK, FOUNDER
WHY: A SPACE ENTIRELY DEDICATED TO BRIDAL JEWELRY, BUT ALSO AN ART GALLERY WHERE TO APPRECIATE DIFFERENT FORMS OF AESTHETIC BEAUTY
WHERE: LONDON, ENGLAND
Mayfair is among the best known and most exclusive London districts. Right in its most elegant part, you will find Jessica McCormack's store. New Zealander by birth but Londoner by adoption, the designer has given birth to her personal jewelry kingdom: a large 19th century house in 7 Carlos Place. An exclusive location, which houses not only her jewels, but also the workshop where the creations are handcrafted. The fivestory building is characterized by high ceilings, large arched windows, aged wood floors, fireplaces and a well-kept courtyard. The floors are furnished with antiques, contemporary paintings and sculptures. The library has a full-length bookcase and a piano that fills the space with music. An exclusive place, where McCormack has just inaugurated a space entirely dedicated to bridal. «I really wanted it to be somewhere that felt calm and welcoming. From the artwork in the space, to the flooring that we chose, to the colours of the carpet – I just wanted to create an environment that felt peaceful, and beautiful,» she says.
WHO: ALICE AND FRANCESCA VILLA, ENTREPRENEURS AND ART DIRECTORS
WHY: A CULT BRAND FOR 5 GENERATIONS THAT FOCUSES ON DIGITAL STORYTELLING, AND A NEW BOUTIQUE WITH WORKSHOP OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
WHERE: MILAN, ITALY
The story of Villa Milano Jewelers goes back a long way. Benvenuto Villa founded the company in 1876. A goldsmith, sculptor and alchemist of great renown, he began to present his jewelry and sculptures at the great universal exhibitions of the time, winning a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1889 with a very modern and hermetic silver "cube" sculpture. That sculpture now resides in the new Villa Milano store, which moved from its historic address in via Manzoni to the heart of Brera last June. «The move to Brera is a celebration of the city. We left a street that had historical value to go to an area that now suits us better. Our craftsmanship remains our strong point, so we chose a place where this could be enhanced. Brera is the artists' district, populated by one-of-a-kind stores, something that the city center is now losing: big brands are taking the place of small, characteristic and high-value boutiques,» explains Alice Villa who, together with sister Francesca, manages the company with a new experimental approach. «We are making some changes to keep up with the times and even anticipate them to a certain extent.» If wearing a piece of Villa jewelry means wearing a piece of Milanese history, Alice and Francesca, fifth generation at the company’s helm, are trying to take a new step towards the future, not only by offering creations of innovative design, but also by offering a unique shopping experience. «The new boutique has a different image, with catching windows that will change constantly to spark the curiosity of customers, and a workshop open to the public, where people can see how our creations are made. We are investing greatly in digital, which will be increasingly important, but a business such as ours cannot ignore the physical encounter. It is the only way to carry on the narrative of an extremely strong artisan awareness and a discourse of uniqueness, which is still what leads customers to choose Villa Milano. Since 1876.»