Occupying a three-story historic townhouse in the heart of Shanghai, FANWU is a concept store that showcases a miscellany of heritage crafts from around the world, ranging from Eastern Europe to South America, all the way to Western Asia and North Africa. Conceived by interior designer Zhang Jiahe of VANISHED Design as an immersive time capsule, the store completely eschews the conventions of retail design conjuring instead a cabinet of curiosities. Filled with antique cabinets, bespoke displays and cubbyholes, the space’s intricate detailing and playful incongruities offers an immersive spatial experience that elicits wonderment and curiosity. Fusing Western and Eastern design elements in reflection of the brand’s multicultural ethos, FANWU’s collage-like interiors invite visitors on a cultural journey across time.
Founded by a fashion designer and globetrotting collector, FANWU bridges crafts, fashion and perfumery with an eclectic collection of antique and contemporary artefacts that range from hand-crafted pewter, crystal and ceramic everyday objects, to artisanal personal care products, limited-edition perfumes and hand-dye, hand-print clothing from the founder’s Paris-based fashion brand COMMUNS. Zhang Jiahe drew inspiration from the diverse range of eras, regions and cultures on display, along with the underlying themes of tradition and craftsmanship, designing the store as a palimpsest of different decorative elements that give visitors the impression they have stepped into the ancestral home of a collector.
To begin with, the building was stripped down to reveal the original brickwork and woodwork in order to bring the property’s historical character back to life, also including the painstaking refurbishment of timber elements such as ceiling beams, window frames, floorboards and stairs. The designer subsequently introduced a collage of diverse materials including marble, leather, ceramics and antique wood designed to stand out against the house’s modest vernacular framework.
Taking the form of architectural detailing, built-in furnishings and free-standing furniture, the rich material palette is a nod to the owner's extensive travels, as well as an allusion to the artisanal heritage of Medieval Europe. A lot of thought has been given to the product displays as every one of which is unique. From shelves and niches, to cabinets, drawers and secret compartments, the hodgepodge of quirky, unconventional set-up imbues the retail experience with a sense of wonder, while the flexibility of the spatial design also means the store can be easily reconfigured to adapt to the regularly changing curation.
Entering the store through an intimate courtyard, the open-plan retail area is centred around a large display table with a stone top and tree trunk supports. Green marble geometric elements integrated into the walls add opulent touches and vibrant pops of colour against the earthy colour scheme, while concealed display lighting injects a sense of modernity into the aged premises. On the first floor, a living room, dining room and bathroom comprise a domestic setting. Furnished with antique pieces and bathed in soft, warm natural lighting the space is imbued with a painterly ambience creating the feeling that you have stepped back in time into a Vermeer painting – ultimately, another way the store’s design artfully marries Western and Eastern cultural traditions.