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What it takes…

Brands want to be innovative and catching with their customers. They seek to connect on an emotional level. Designers need to deliver concepts that can facilitate this goal. Creating such a strategic design takes a lot of very deep considerations – for the brand, its back ground, history, people, message,operations, sales, intent and culture – and for the customers, who are seeking innovation and a unique experience.

A good strategic brand concept  for a store translates into designs at all scales that are custom tailored to the brand, its expression to the customer and its operational requirements.We task ourselves to invent environments that facilitate truly unique consumer/user experiences.

I will illustrate this along the following case study:

My first substantial task with MAC Cosmetics was to create a new retail store environment for them. The brand is rooted in professional make up artistry with a strong emphasis on individual creative expression.

mac cosmetics design

MAC Cosmetics design

Our first considerations were explorations as to what the environments, in which make up artists work, looked like and what did and did not work.It was clear that we needed something that was adaptable and flexible to suit the individual needs and promote the artists. A sort of open stage with a flexible arrangement of functional fixtures and tools. In response we developed a modular fixture system that could be re-arranged to endless configurations by any one without the use of tools.we sketched, drew and built models until we knew what worked.

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For the feel of the space we wanted it to be unique to the brand and the products, so we needed something that linked the environment to the idea of products applied to skin. We wanted it to be recognizable that this environment is made to showcase make-up and no other product. So we considered the theme of skin and its organic characteristics. We invented a material to skin our modular fixtures so that consumer would have a memorable touch sensation when getting in contact with our fixtures. Those top skins were equally modular so they would not impact the flexibility of the fixtures below. In line with this idea we developed displays from an animated scenario of attractors that simulated the interaction around the fixture through customers. It created organic displays, onto which we organized product along elevation lines similar to the lines found on maps of mountains.

Image converted using ifftoany

 

 

 

 

counter top wireframe

contourmodel_07

all displayers

 

The long design process eventually led to beautiful sculptural objects. Some of the we lit from below to accentuate their shapes.

 

eye testerlip mountain

lipstick copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further we developed accessories like hand mirrors with an organic look and touch to emphasize the theme of skin and beauty. The concept needs to apply at all scales. They were paired with sensor activated water fountains that emerged from the counter top skin creating another impactful organic moment.

soho10

 

The space itself also needed to speak the same formal language so we created concept touch points through out the store such as areas where we”peeled” the floor off the ground to form an organic enclosure for privacy or  “melted” the ceiling to a softer, organic form or poured a thick 1″ layer of clear Urethane on the floor, to soften the hardness of the space. We choose finishes that contrasted and gave a dynamic quality to the space. The fixtures ended up being built from cement board and a custom formulated Poly Urethane. The space had elements of concrete and acrylic, rather neutral for it to function as a presentation stage for the sculptural fixtures.

 

plexwall3

soho7

soho6

 

The whole effort of 4 months of design, 8 months of development and 4 months of construction resulted in an engaging, unique and innovative environment.

soho1

MAC Cosmetics / New York

 

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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when disruption is inspiration

Much has been written about it since it opened in late December of 2013, but I would like to mention Dover Street Market/ New York in context of disruption, a retail strategy I wrote about back in October of 2013, as Comme des Garçons, the driving force behind this innovative retail experiment, has once again proven to be the master of this discipline. Established as the third and american brother of its  original in London we have to ignore the decadence that comes with Favella resembling environments, which sell goods at highest price points for their emotional values as a result of the endorsement of this place and the brands it carries. Instead I would like to draw focus on the creative aspects of the environment, which so refreshingly surprise and disrupt even the savviest retail expert on their discovery through this fashion temple.

Maybe I need to mention the choice of location as the first surprise, a corner in New York’s mid-town, that has absolutely no comparable retail in its immediate vicinity and is more characterized by uninspiring neighborhood restaurants and faceless apartment buildings and would in everyone mind be a financial suicide for such an undertaking. This is where brand confidence crossed with brilliant marketing comes into play, a long-held tradition for Comme des Garçons , where ever they go. ( I do remind of the “Orange Door” in a back alley of Tokyo’s Aoyama district that in absence of a logo lead into a 2 story world of high-end fashion for the ones “in the know” or the store on West 22nd Street in New York’s gallery district in the early 2000s, hidden behind the facade of a car repair shop). And for all those who never dare – it always paid off.

Not intimidated by the relatively small footprint a genius strike is the glass elevator that was brutalistically implanted in the center of each of the 7  floor plates to allow the customer a preview of the entire store offering in one ride to the top, regardless of the fact that it disrupts traffic, views and merchandising on most levels. It is the prime stimulus to the carefully choreographed creative chaos that is dispersed over 7 floors in a souk style fashion.

With displaying multiple brands comes the coexistence problem of multiple identities in one field. To which the creators of this stimulating environment answered by masking the individual brands with crafty expressions of carefully curated fixture (systems) and original to bizarrely defaced  furniture pieces to mini stage sets. If the product does not make you stop then the (art) installations displaying it may have a better chance. Or maybe the freestanding dressing rooms objects will make you want to explore? Whether it resembles high craft or random assemblies, this world of creativity is outfitted with surprises that disrupt one’s expectation at every angle, turning the retail journey into a highly entertaining and inspiring adventure.

It may not convince on all levels of execution but it certainly gains high appreciation on the conceptual end showing once again that Rei Kawakubo and her team are way ahead of their time having created an environment again that is unique and unparalleled yet.

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

omniform on dover street market

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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retail tech outlook

The big news over the past couple of weeks in the retail and fashion tech space was of course the concept of Amazon drones, but multiple other stories grabbed the headlines too. Here’s a highlight of the best ones…

instagram-direct-2

  • IBM’s Watson explores the great e-commerce unknown with The North Face [AdAge]
  • What Instagram Direct means for fashion brands (as pictured) [Fashionista]
  • Barneys creates holiday .gif guide to appeal to younger consumers [Luxury Daily]
  • Harrods’ Christmas Weibo campaign engages London’s Chinese tourist influx [Jing Daily]
  • Karmaloop targets millennials with YouTube and Snapchat holiday plan [AdWeek]
  • Kmart’s ‘Ship My Pants’ gets the Dickens treatment for Christmas [AdAge]
  • Native advertising: the pros and cons [WWD]
  • Designing the next generation of wearables, with women in mind [Fast Company]
  • With 3-D printing, clothing that leaves out the sewing machine [NY Times]
  • Mallzee is a Tinder-esque shopping app that lets your friends play fashion police [TechCrunch]
  • Start-up Thread is building a scalable personal styling service, blending human stylists and intelligent algorithms [BoF]
  • Instagram is the ‘best platform for brands’ in 2013, beating out Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ [Venture Beat]
  • Retailers look to their best customers, not bloggers, as the new influencers [Fashionista]
  • Gap’s ad with Sikh model Waris Ahluwalia defaced with racist graffiti, drawing incredible response from company [Huffington Post]

(Reblogged from Fashion and Mash)

regis pean + omni//form is a strategic architecture and design firm creating
experience based design around the world
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disrupt

Every brand wants to be unique. In the ever-growing arena of physical retail  stores the competition for an experience that creates a lasting memory with their customers is fierce.  To be relevant today means to be talked about. The five-minute fame is the minimum goal and success in retail brand design is measured after sales but also after popularity. Write ups in glossy industry magazines as well as mentions on blogs, Facebook and Twitter are moving the mark today.

In a previous post I elaborated on the strategy of using the concept of illusion to attract attention. Today I want to highlight the concept of disruption. To be unique means you do something nobody else does. You invent or repurpose something in a new inventive way. You disrupt the conventional. The purpose of it is not uniqueness in itself but to surprise  with a new perspective, perception or understanding of things similar as conceptual art is done. It evokes critical thinking, questioning and often emotions, which is what touches us about art. I see this strategic tactic increasingly borrowed in the world of branded retail design. Not the inclusion of a commissioned art piece but rather the application of a similar conceptional approach. The really unique results shine through brilliant conception, tightly connected to the brand’s DNA, challenging the visitor (as of “in a museum”) with a new idea thus creating a moment of deep engagement and connection. With disruption I mean the breaking of the expected mould. Challenging the expectation and offering a truly new experience. It is unfortunately rarely achieved. It takes guts for a brand to take this direction. Newness involves risk taking and although they are thirsty for it, most brands are not daring enough to step beyond the boundaries of conventions to explore the field of the unknown. It takes a confident and visionary leader inside a brand to understand the benefit of such direction. An increasingly rare species, which is why it is such a great achievement for those who have gone there.

I am listing below a few examples, not all necessarily most ones, but relevant to illustrate the idea:

Store fronts:

Commes des garcons

Commes des garcons

 

The Reduction of color and geometry as an extreme measure to highlight the labels sub brand.

Absence is the disruptive tactic.

CdG is a master of disruption.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prada Los Angeles

Prada Los Angeles

 

A brutalist architectural move and the absence of a store front. Vitrines are in the floor. Customers don’t see a store but a large stair engaging the entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prada Tokyo

Prada Tokyo

 

The entrance is a “gate” to another world. Disruptive geometry throughout the building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Shanghai

Apple Shanghai

 

An object marks the entrance to a non visible world. It breaks with all retail conventions: No visible store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abercrombie NYC

Abercrombie NYC

 

Another store that is completely closed off to the outside. Engaging with the curiosity of the customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Fassades:

Pharmacy in Portugal

Pharmacy in Portugal

 

Unconventional signage. The building = the brand.

The signage becomes an art piece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comme des garçons -HK

Comme des garçons -HK

 

Architectural branding.

The facade  as a canvas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfridges Birmingham

Selfridges Birmingham

 

 

Here the building shape and the facade becomes the expression of the brand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interiors:

Starbucks Fukuoka

Starbucks Fukuoka

 

A space defining structure that speaks about local craftsmanship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longchamp NYC

Longchamp NYC

 

A sculptural stair that points to the leather heritage of the brand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prada NYC

Prada NYC

 

A stage in a life style store.

 

 

 

 

 

Helmut Lang NYC

Helmut Lang NYC

 

A seemingly empty store engages in customers curiosity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comes des garcons

Comes des garcons

 

A space difficult to understand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfridges & Louis Vuitton

Selfridges & Louis Vuitton

 

A disorienting world of color and texture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mauboussin Paris Vendome

Mauboussin Paris Vendome

 

Street art style  and erotic in a high-end jewelry store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Displays:

Helmut Lang perfumery NYC

Helmut Lang perfumery NYC

 

Less is more. The less you show, the more it is visible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAC Cosmetics NYC

MAC Cosmetics NYC

 

Landscapes of color. Unexpected arrangements of product.

Unconventional material use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mistral, Sao Paolo

Mistral, Sao Paolo

 

Wine from another angle. Display re-thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citroen Paris

Citroen Paris

 

Cars in a new perspective. Clever layout and the use of mirrors throughout allo customers to experience cars in an innovative way.

Richard Branson on the Importance of Design

No matter what industry you’re working in, if your business sells services, your ultimate goal is making your customers happy. At Virgin, we’ve always found that our front-line employees play a big role in that, with their cheerfulness, patience, resourcefulness, and dedication to listening to customers. But no matter how good they are, your staff will need you to set the stage for a great customer experience with good design — by providing a space that you, your employees and your customers love to be in.

A well-designed space immediately says that you care about the details and that you want to contribute something fun and meaningful to your customers’ lives — it will help them to relax and talk about what they’re looking for. We learned this accidentally, and early on — at our first storefront, in fact.

Our first Virgin Records store in London, which opened in 1971, was essentially a place for us to listen to music and meet new friends. It featured listening stations where customers could play records before buying them and beanbag chairs so that everyone could hang out. From that experience, my friends and I realized how important it was to create inviting, unique spaces that bring people together to discuss what they are passionate about: music, mobile apps, travel, even banking.

Yes, banking! When we launched Virgin Money in Britain, one of our newest businesses, we faced the challenge of making banking both fun and meaningful for customers. Our team’s answer was to offer people the opportunity to integrate banking into their everyday lives by eliminating lines and teller windows: The banks are designed to resemble living rooms, with both comfortable seating and work areas so that customers can use the space to meet friends, colleagues or our representatives. They can set up their laptops and use the space to do some work whenever they like, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, power outlets and newspapers we offer.

When you are designing your space, think about the problems that your customers are depending on you to solve. Many of our spaces address specific issues. For example, some people waiting in airports would prefer to spend their time productively, while others just want to relax, so we targeted both groups’ needs when we made our plans for Virgin America’s Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport.

For business travelers, we included Wi-Fi, power outlets and plentiful seating so that they can be as productive on the ground as they are in the air. For people more interested in recreation, we built a yoga room, a lounge with plentiful food and beverage choices, and shops featuring the best of San Francisco’s markets and chefs. We’ve heard from customers that T2 makes the airport an experience to look forward to, rather than just another stop along a tiring journey.

Remember, when it comes to design, it’s rare that one size fits all. Since the types of customers for your services may vary from location to location, you must be flexible. And as always, be sure to ask your front-line staff for ideas and get their thoughts on proposed designs. We have Virgin Active health clubs all over the world, and while they share common values, we encourage franchise owners to customize each club to fit the local community’s needs.

For example, many of our gyms in residential neighborhoods have terrific kid zones where children can be looked after while their parents work out. This allows multitasking moms and dads to get a break so that they can exercise — and relax afterward, too. Virgin Active Soweto, by contrast, serves many business commuters, so it operates a hair salon: After a good workout, people will look as good as they feel.

Even if you are putting everything you’ve got into just getting your startup off the ground, design is not an area where you should stint. The thought, effort and love you put into your business space shows your respect and consideration for your customers — the building blocks of great service. Relaxed, happy customers who know they are valued are more likely to engage with your staff, ask questions and find solutions tailored to their needs.

Have you walked into a store recently that made you feel comfortable, productive, healthy and happy? How did it make you feel about the company? What do such spaces all have in common? Entrepreneurs, tell me about your design challenge on Twitter, @richardbranson.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225685

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The future of retailing?

I like the beginning of a new year. It is a time of reflection when we look back at what went right or wrong last year and make resolutions for the year to come. It is a time for dreams, setting out new goals and finding opportunity for innovation. What can be more positive than that?

Reviews and predictions are to find everywhere these days and as head of a creative agency who is always confronted with the expectation of bringing innovative solutions to our projects I ask myself:

what is the future of retail?

Here are my own few predictions for 2013:

1. shopping is more than ever becoming a lifestyle.

With product offering split between the real and the virtual world the actual retail experience in a store will concentrate much more on the service and interaction with the sales professional than the product purchase itself. Product stock may slowly disappear from select retail stores in favor of online ordering and they will change into show room type spaces, where social media come to life. People who shop similar brands have a commonality. Retail space will be used for social interaction, giving brand aficionados a platform to compare and exchange their passions about the brands they adore. Many retailers have already started “club memberships” to foster such trends. Service staff will need to be trained to initiate and assist this scenario to create memorable real life experiences with strong emotional connections.

2.Product stock may slowly disappear from retail spaces.

Customer like to get a deal and they are savvy. The best way to check where to find a product for the best price and get recommendations is online. Customers may not come to buy necessarily any longer, but to test and compare product in real and experience the brand. Then they buy it online later, where they sometimes can find a better deal. So the retail environment becomes the brand ambassador and must deliver the lifestyle promise of the brand. Retail spaces will be places,where customers will be educated on products, test and evaluate. Orders can be made on site but product will be shipped directly to the house. No need to carry out any longer. No need to stock much product. Justifying increasingly expensive sft prices stock space will be converted to valuable branded consumer front space.

3.Registers will slowly disappear.

As the act of immediate buying will not be the main purpose of a retail environment, cash registers will slowly disappear in favor of mobile devices, which will allow the sales person to place orders and no-cash transactions at any time during the experience in the showroom and have product shipped to the customer’s home (following the model that Apple stores pioneered).

4.Product immersion will be favored.

Product immersion will be the new focus. Showrooms are defined by the act of testing and handling a product. Sample product will be available for customers to try out before a purchase. All product is displayed for test use. Touching and trying a product gets a customer hooked faster.

5.Smart environments backed by big data.

Retail environments will be backed by data knowledge. Big data collection on consumer behavior will play an important role in direct marketing and play out in store increasingly. Retailers are already able to send personalized messages to customer’s mobile devices, guiding them to their favorite brands and items. Proximity sensors will allow brands to send support information on smart phones, when customers are present in stores or interact with a product. Digital signage will adjust  content when a customer is nearby. Sensors will “recognize” a customer, her likes, favorites and aspirations with individual data sets built from shopping histories combined with  social media profiling.What sounded like sci-fi a few years ago is available technology today that will show up increasingly in the retail world.

I believe that there lies a great future ahead for retailers, brands and creatives, who

1.are willing to think out-of-the-box

2.embrace the sociological changes social media and online shopping are bringing to the physical world

3.don’t miss to make adjustments to physical environments, staffing and service offering.

These are my thoughts on the immediate future of retailing.

I would like to open this up to a conversation and would love to hear other predictions.

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Get them in! strategic planning_part 1

One of the most important questions for every shop owner is: how do I get customers to come into my shop? I would like to analyze two very different strategic approaches on how a storefront design can support a potential customers decision.

The first storefront example is the one of the stores omni//form designed for French jeweler “Mauboussin” in Singapore (see previous post for more on that store).

First we took a very atypical approach to the storefront by making it floor-to-ceiling glass. Jewelry stores are usually closed off or “shielded” to convey secured value and provide privacy to a customer, who is ready to spend money. This brand’s aim is to deconstruct that old fashioned notion and instead to reposition itself as being fashionable, young and accessible. The openness of the facade is the first tactic to convey this message.

The second tactic is the logo. It’s the far communicator. Its size is readable from across the street. It sits on a bar that not only illuminates it for better reading but that also guides the eye to the entrance door. The logo acts as an underlined title to the display window area below.

Next is the store front content, which is structured in 3 layers or tactics:

1-The immediate window display plays on the notion of discovery. Open displays -“treasure boxes”- are setup for discovery and tease the viewer with select merchandise. They are internally lit and thus each create a highlight that draws attention.

2-The feather curtain acts as a back drop to the window displays to isolate them out of the interior context but simultaneously allows a peek into the vestibule of the boutique because of its sheer quality. The space behind is conceived around a central cascading chandelier fixture over product displays, which serves as focal point. This visual magnet can be “previewed” from outside to generate interest and desire to enter and explore.

3-The interior of the store can be glimpsed at from outside through two openings from the vestibule. This is crucial for a jewelry store that would typically suffer from what I call “threshold angst” as a hesitance to enter in fear of being engaged with an environment that does not suit the customer’s financial status. In this case the guard is down and customers can see what it is like inside, deconstructing the angst upfront. It also re-enforces the notion of an all inclusiveness supporting the brand message of accessibility.

The overall theme for this design was accessibility and discovery in a attempt to recruit a broader customer range.

A very contrary example to this is a store front we designed years earlier before the brand decided to change its positioning. This store was built in New York, on Madison Avenue. The aim was to convey exclusivity and a secure environment for precious goods. It was in line with the expected customer in this neighborhood, where the most exclusive stores settle and people come to spend money.

regis pean+omni//form strategic planning example

Here the logo was reduced to a decent hint to communicate exclusivity.

The storefront communicates a curated selection of merchandise but does not offer additional layered information.  The inside of the boutique remains an experience to explore for the ones who dare or belong.

The entrance is marked by a bright and sparkling opening in the otherwise dark store front.  Full glass doors offer a peek into a glitzy vestibule, which leads the way to the real entrance door further in. The passing of two door thresholds was introduced to re-enforce the ideas of safety and privacy.

The shop window displays draw attention similar to the first example. Bright lights create contrast and highlights for the eyes to fall on. Brand iconic treasure boxes are opened up for discovery. Here is where the brand communicates its offering. But additional information is very limited: cropped openings in the back drop around the displays allow for a peek into the vestibule behind and the ones, who look carefully through the center opening, as it aligns with the entrance door behind, are rewarded with a peek into the boutique. The goal was to  raise interest and desire to explore the tease. The theme in this example plays on intriguing luxury for the Madison Avenue customer.

Both examples show how strategic design tactics can create very opposite effects while achieving the same goal: to get customers into the store!

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Adapt your concept!

Mauboussin Mandarin Galleries, Orchard Rd, Singapore

When French jewelry brand Mauboussin asked us to take the brand new retail experience concept we had created for their Madison avenue store to Singapore for a new flagship store, we knew we had to make some adjustments.The democratization of fine luxury, as the brand had initiated it in France to reach a wider demographic, seemed not to be the appropriate strategy for the local market in Singapore. Instead we felt that a more successful direction was to turn up the volume on the exclusivity and the french heritage, both aspects that seem highly valued by the local affluent customer. So we put personal customer service at its center and created an interior that is reminiscent of a french palais. But it would not be recognizable as Mauboussin, if it did not have twisted moments of surprise and playfulness in the details. In the end it is as important to show that Mauboussin is a french luxury heritage brand with a very young and fresh spirit at heart.

Mauboussin, Mandarin Galleries, Orchard Rd, Singapore

design by omni//form,inc

      

  

   

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more pop!

To launch its new perfume, “La Petite Robe noire”, Guerlain has set up, for a few months only, a pop-up store next door to its flagship outlet at 68, avenue des Champs-Elysées. But the little shop has nothing to do with the stalls featuring derivative products.

With its olfactive and photographic workshops, the pop-up store is designed to be more fun and interactive than its traditional equivalent. The store features the imagery developed by the visual artists Kuntzel+Deygas to promote “La Petite Robe noire”, plus a series of artistic works reinterpreting certain of the brand’s codes that evoke emotional connection and a very casual introduction to the brand for the customer.

The temporary store will say its goodbyes in November this year to allow work to begin on extensions to the flagship store, in 2013.

Not to be missed as long as it lasts!

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re-imagined

This one comes with the intent of a little self promotion. We just completed the renovation of Bumble and bumble’s founding salon in New York City on 146 E 56th Street. The Salon had undergone many iterations of fix ups during the past 20 years with the result that not only it looked outdated but the look did not hold together any more. Neither did the experience.

So we first re-imagined the ideal customer experience together with the Salon team and then built the design out from key moments in it. The outcome is a look that builds on brand heritage in a contemporary way and a carefully choreographed experience with refreshingly surprising elements along the way. Check it out if you are in the neighborhood. Open every day except Mondays.

arrival – welcome – shop lounge
illustration©Monte Antrim

the wall of fame
illustration©Monte Antrim

the cut floor and the wall of heroes
illustration©Monte Antrim

the experience at the station
illustration©Monte Antrim

photography©Rebecca Mc Alpin

the shop lounge
photography©Rebecca Mc Alpin

photography©Rebecca Mc Alpin

the cut floor and the wall of heroes
photography©Rebecca Mc Alpin

the waiting lounge
photography©Rebecca Mc Alpin

©Regis Pean

changing room
photography©Rebecca Mc Alpin

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