VMSD magazineVisual Merchandising and Store Design magazine (June 2006 Issue)

By Steve Kaufman

The Oliver Peoples mission statement is disarmingly short and stylish: "Committed to designing stimulating eyewear for expressive individuals."

If you're asking who those "expressive" Oliver Peoples individuals are, you're not reading GQ or Vanity Fair. It's the "A" list of actors, rockers and whatever Paris Hilton is.

While its eyewear is sold in the most exclusive boutiques in the country - and at the likes of Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Paul Smith - it has very few of its own stores, in carefully selected fashion centers like Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo. So every new-store opening is an event - and a design challenge.

For its fifth and newest store, in South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court (Costa Mesa, Calif.), it sought its usual ultra-hip mix of luxe furniture, high-tech appointments, fusion music and a fashionable yet relaxed atmosphere complementary to its classic products.

The store's design was a collaboration between Oliver Peoples' in-house creative team, headed by co-founder and chief designer Larry Leight, architect Michael Robinson of Robinson Hill Architecture Inc. (Costa Mesa, Calif.) and designer Hein Haugland of Culteva Inc. (New York).

An ethereal rear wall draws shoppers into the store, the eyewear floating in an "illuminated void" of matte white plaster, spotlighted in wall display fixtures that conceal three types of lighting (and also product storage). Human forms morph from the wall. Custom-made barrier-free fixtures encourage shoppers to touch glasses and try them on.

High-gloss paint lightens the fixtures and reflects design elements that make the 1022-square-foot store appear larger. Vintage merchandise is displayed on a cylindrical greeting counter in bowls carved into the surface. The award-winning fixtures are by Moon Design Mfg. (Vista, Calif.).

a Everything in an Oliver Peoples store is aimed at demanding A-list customers willing to pay top dollar for expensive frames. Merchandising is minimal, shapes and surfaces are elegant. b A back-lit back wall drives attention to the rear of the 1022-square-foot store, where merchandise sits in an "illuminated void" of matte white plaster.

Client: Oliver Peoples, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Design: Culteva Inc., New York

Architect: Robinson Hill Architecture Inc., Costa Mesa, Calif.

General Contractor: Summit General Contractors, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Fixtures: Moon Design Mfg., Vista, Calif.

Photography: Paul Warchol, New York


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