For the modern bride-to-be, picking out the perfect wedding dress is an important moment and one which will be fondly remembered for many years to come.
Luxury wedding couture is a small, but highly competitive and lucrative market, where the retail experience is almost as important as the clothing itself. Brands within this space are continually evaluating the design of their boutiques to best communicate their fashion ethos to customers.
In order to tempt the betrothed into making one of the most significant purchases of their lives, these shops must reflect the style, sophistication and sensuousness of the clothing sold in them.
This has to encompass everything, from the architectural concept and quality of fabrication to the materials, fittings and furniture specified. Each element has to be just-so.
For Taiwanese wedding dress designer, Nicole + Felicia, it was the primary consideration when it came to the design of its flagship boutique in Shanghai, China in 2019.
Founded by sisters, Nicole and Felicia Chang, Nicole + Felicia has established a global reputation over the last two decades for conceiving visually captivating clothes, using the finest fabrics. The brand’s idiosyncratic style and commitment to using only high-quality cloth has enticed many celebrities including, Kelly Rowland, Elsa Hosk and Elephant Dee.
The appetite for luxury weddings has grown considerably over the last few years, with couples looking to host a unique high-end event to celebrate their nuptials. China is one country which has seen demand increase and the Changs saw this as an opportunity to expand Nicole + Felicia within this burgeoning territory.
The choice to locate the boutique in Shanghai’s Peninsula business district, adjacent to the Huangpu River, was deliberate as it contains some of the city’s highest value commercial and residential real estate. With a high footfall of high net-worth individuals, it would perfectly position the brand directly in front of its target audience.
The idea for the store’s look and feel was developed by Nicole + Felicia’s chief retail designer, Tangzhonghang. He wanted to create a minimalist but immersive atmosphere within the space, a backdrop against which the atelier’s beautiful wedding dresses would stand out and deliver a real wow factor. Cool and contemporary, it would take inspiration from the modernist metropolis surrounding it.
With the expectation the location would experience high traffic, especially during the working week, Tangzhonghang knew he would need to be discerning when it came to material and furnishing choices, particularly surfaces.
Importantly, he wanted something which would evoke exclusivity and affluence but also be hard-wearing, low-maintenance and easy-to-clean. The latter was a crucial requirement, especially in a country where hygiene is taken very seriously.
Testing several materials to no avail, he alighted upon Neolith®, the pioneering brand of sintered stone. The color definition and detailing of its patterns, as well its performance and resistance qualities, were exactly what he was looking for to complement the Nicole + Felicia’s philosophy and clothing.
Partners for life
Neolith’s range of surfaces inspired by classical Italian marble impressed all those involved in the project, with the enduringly popular Estatuario Silk catching Tangzhonghang’s eye. He thus decided that it would be specified holistically within the boutique.
Commenting on the choice, Tangzhonghang said, “I fell in love with Estatuario as soon as I saw it, and immediately saw how it could work in Nicole + Felicia Shanghai. The crisp white tones and understated, but characterful, gray veining would perfectly marry within the boutique, enhancing the spaciousness of the shop. When coupled with floor-to-ceiling stainless steel mirror finished structures and carefully curated lighting, it would create an attractive illusion of a much larger space which would better allow the wedding dresses to stand out.
“Neolith’s clean lines and ability to be fabricated seamlessly with hidden joints, as well as its wonderful, silk-like tactility, further amplified the overall experience, playfully nodding to the significance of the textile in Chinese history,” Tangzhonghang went on to say.
Overall, 2,584 square feet of 1/4-inch Neolith Estatuario was specified across the space’s surfaces, extending from the outer storefront across the whole interior. One challenge the fabricators faced when responding to the design brief was to apply the material in such a way to allow visitors to see Nicole + Felicia’s couture in the round.
However, through the clever use of hidden steel frames, they were able to achieve a clear and sober architectural dialogue between both backdrop and the clothing on display, emphasizing every aspect of the dresses’ fine embroidery, deft pleating and fabric texture. Much like a carefully orchestrated wedding ceremony, Neolith once again proved the essential supporting player without detracting from the central focus of the occasion, the bride in her dress.
“When I saw the finished article, so artfully fabricated, I was blown away,” said Tangzhonghang. “It was like a beautifully painted monochrome sketch, unifying the space and bringing Nicole + Felicia’s signature style to the fore. It truly delivered 360 ° design, helping to create the refined but subtle atmosphere we were looking for. I will definitely be working with Neolith on future projects.”
This project is in collaboration with Neolith’s distributing partner, Techsize, and Neolith Asia Pacific branch.