Since its founding in 1987, Australian skincare brand Aesop has established a reputation not just for the quality of its products but also for its singular approach to retail design. Rather than replicating the same brand aesthetic across its stores around the world, the company has opted for “a locally relevant design vocabulary”, creating spaces that are respectful of the local community, culture, and history. What makes Aesop’s retail design truly remarkable, though, is that the site-specific interventions are nevertheless imbued with the brand’s sensibility, instantly recognizable as Aesop stores—and not just because of the rows of its signature apothecary-style bottles and black and white label packaging. A case in point is the newly unveiled Aesop Lyon Place de la République, the company’s second signature store in Lyon, France. An inaugural collaboration with Belgian studio Nicolas Schuybroek Architects, the store’s starkly modern yet soulfully crafted interior is inspired by the city’s urban fabric and the historic building it occupies.
Stripped down to the building’s masonry core, the space preserves aspects of its historical character, with only essential contemporary materials layered over it. The high ceiling is swathed in fire-resistant foam, intentionally left exposed for both practical reasons and as a tribute to the building's previous life. Not something you usually see in retail spaces, the cloud-like foam surfaces create surprising textural contrasts with the wool felt that lines the lower part of the space. The wool felt wall panels help with sound absorption and introduce a warm, homely feel to the space's otherwise cool tones. Populating the space is a series of freestanding elements that evoke Lyon’s numerous fountains, including a small sink for intimate consultations, wood-veneered counters, and a large central basin wrapped in local tin that will develop a distinctive patina over the years, a poetic gesture that further deepens the store’s connections with the city.