The Art of Fashion

Canadian fashion retailer Mendocino cements its reputation as a haven for style-conscious shoppers with a flagship location in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville shopping district. The design combines modern elements and finishes, and reclaimed and raw materials, and juxtaposes the new against the old.

“We used a combination of modern architectural language with raw materials to create a refined, gallery-like space that allows the product to stand out,” said Nadia Cannataro, senior designer, environment, Perennial Inc., Toronto.

The contemporary environment has an urban chic look and feel that captures the nuances of the Mendocino brand and its offering: an edited assortment of on-trend, “of-the-moment” branded fashions.

“The owners pride themselves on getting the latest and greatest,” Cannataro said.

The design brings clarity to the brand, Cannataro added, and establishes consistent principles that can be applied to different locations in different ways. Currently, Mendocino has nine stores, the majority in the Toronto market.

“The design allows each store a level of consistency while still having some sense of uniqueness,” Cannataro explained.

A blend of signage elements and displays creates a striking store-front, giving the retailer a prominent profile on Toronto’s premier fashion street (Bloor Street). Mendocino’s redesigned logo features prominently on the exterior. The logo, an illuminated oversized “M” in a box, helps the retailer stand out and serves as an enticing beacon to passers-by.

“We wanted to create a very strong statement with the new identity and storefront right on Bloor,” Cannataro said.

Interior: On the interior, simple architecture, a minimized materials palette and concrete columns enhance Mendocino’s modern, streamlined appearance.

The project was challenging in that it involved combining three separate retail spaces into one. To resolve the bottleneck footprint left by the combination and create a cohesive store, the designers staggered focal walls throughout the space, creating rhythm and unity.

The walls draw customers through the awkwardly shaped space and eliminate potential dead zones. A layered drywall ceiling detail is combined with a recessed light trough, connecting columns and leading customers to the back of the store.

“We also used floor fixtures to help promote the traffic flow,” Cannataro added. “Because the product offerings are constantly changing, the floor fixtures are a combination of shelves and hanging bars.”

Project Resources

Design firm: Perennial Inc., Toronto

Contractor: Penalta Group Ltd., Oakville, Ontario

Fixtures: MG Welding and Fabrication, Scarborough, Ontario

Flooring: I.C.R., Baltimore, Ontario

Lighting: Juno Lighting, Brampton, Ontario; MP Lighting, Thornhill, Ontario; TPL Lighting, Toronto

Millwork: Middlebrook Woodworking, Fergus, Ontario

Mannequins are strategically positioned throughout the store. They are placed on different levels, with some on low platforms and others in front of columns.

A large table, positioned near the entrance, provides a flexible surface that can be used for various purposes.

“It’s like a canvas that can be changed to reflect whatever is going on in the store,” Cannataro added. “There are also feature areas that can accommodate a face-out presentation of four or five items. The areas create points of attention.”

To facilitate better customer service, there are two separate banks of fitting rooms. The smaller bank is in the middle of the space, across from the cashwrap, and the other is in the rear. Translucent glass partitions between the fitting rooms and the sales floor provide a degree of privacy while at the same time promoting interaction between customers and enhancing customer service.

“There is a real buzz around the fitting rooms—the customers sell to each other as it were,” Cannataro said. “We wanted to bring this to the forefront, so we created two separate areas to bring the buzz closer to the sales floor.”

White stained wood and white pearl-escent wallcoverings create unity throughout the space and complement the natural warmth and patina of the store’s materials, which include reclaimed wood, concrete and raw steel. (The checkout and the wall behind are made of hot-rolled steel panels.) Red accents emphasize fitting rooms, the cashwrap and a feature face-out wall.

“The neutral white space creates a great backdrop for the clothing on display,” Cannataro said.

The fitting rooms and some of the fixtures, including the mannequin platforms, utilize reclaimed wood that was recovered from old piers that were found buried in Toronto’s harbor.

“It’s a very unique pine, richer than a typical pine, and it adds a lot of warmth to the space,” Cannataro said.

Mendocino has received rave reviews from customers.

“The owners, who were initially worried about making the move to such a high-profile location, have been extremely pleased with the feedback,” Cannataro said. “They’re very happy with the store.”

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