SHOWFIELDS: Art, Design, Commerce, Profit

Soho is the epicenter of larger-than-life retail experiences. On Spring Street, there is the Longchamp Flagship Store, designed by the Heatherwick Studio, where the horizontal planes rise to create a three-dimensional parabola that allows the visitors to walk through, in order to ultimately buy French-designed zip-bags. A couple of blocks away, where the Prince Street meets Broadway, the highly-acclaimed Prada Flagship store stands, designed by OMA, where there is virtually no time of the day there is not a huge line, including enthusiastic tourists with a bucket list or yet another group of design students who want to use the store as their main inspiration for their first design project in which they will end up using the word "arbitrary" way too much, waiting just to get a glimpse of this architectural marvel that almost feels too heavy-handed. Considering a location where luxury brands are essentially in a retail design war, it is safe to say that SHOWFIELDS makes a bold statement with their intriguing tagline: "The most interesting store in the world." That sentence brings a different question to the table that is certainly more difficult to answer. Is SHOWFIELDS even the most interesting store in the neighborhood?

SHOWFIELDS is a store that aims to blend art, design, and commerce in one big rainbow-colored pot. According to their website, their goal is to challenge the retail status quo by merging art and commerce and to reimagine the shopping experience through the eyes of the customer using immersive experiences, great service, and discovery. From a visitor's perspective, it does deliver what they aim to achieve. The visitors stroll around the multi-story building where an artist spotlight blends into an organic mulch purchasing booth, or intricate illustrations carefully framed and displayed right next to a locally-owned hair vitamin display. The huge slide that connects the second and the third floors is covered in colorful faux fur that could be an interpretation of humanity's obtuseness when it comes to animal cruelty in luxury fashion, or it could just be a cute Instagrammable backdrop for free advertising for the establishment. One can ascribe the brand's success to lots of different attributes: being kitsch, boisterous, or even repetitive. However, there is one this SHOWFIELDS truly achieves; something that the big and fancy architecture firms might have missed due to their refusal of getting off their high horses. This place is certainly not boring.

SHOWFIELDS unleashes its true potential once it allows itself to be fully kitsch, outlandish, or borderline campy. There are enough retail design experiences in Soho that take themselves too seriously, so this place delivers what the tagline promises when whimsical elements are paired with unconventional function juxtapositions. Overall, it is absolutely an interesting store that melds art, design, commerce, and profit into one giant playful pot.

Words by
Mustafa Yiğit Ecer
April 6, 2021
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