Designing for Divas

Torrid gives its shoppers an exclusive club all their own.
Posted April 14, 2008

First came the rock star. In 1989, Hot Topic brought music-inspired fashion and accessories to the mall. Within a few years, the company was receiving customer comment cards and e-mails requesting larger sizes. A sister was born. She’s Torrid. And she’s a diva.

“We discovered there was a void in on-trend fashion for plus-size women,” says Darrell Kinsley, Hot Topic’s vp, marketing, visual and store design.

In 2001, Torrid stores starting hitting the malls. Like any fashionista, the brand has gone through its fashion phases. At launch time, Torrid stores looked and felt similar to Hot Topic, with dark colors and a Moroccan-style influence. Then the rise in career wear led to a more conservative look in the stores: cream tones, light woods and patterned wallpapers in muted colors. But today’s shopper seeks fun, trendy casual wear from brands such as Baby Phat, Betsey Johnson and Rocawear, as well as Torrid’s own private-label offering. “Our stores had become too sophisticated and reserved for that hip customer,” Kinsley says. “It was time to develop a store that reflected our new product mix.”

Debuting in Brea, Calif., the new Torrid is designed with the diva in mind. The company’s in-house design team used the brand’s new Diva Style rewards program as inspiration for the new concept. “The program is all about exclusivity and being fashionably in the know,” says Kinsley. “So we wanted to create an exclusive club environment for our divas.”

The store features an overall bright and white atmosphere grounded by dark wood flooring. For fun, the brand uses accents of pink and black – borrowed from the Torrid logo – to provide that needed flair in just the right places, including the accessories nook and in the fitting rooms. The cashwrap also glows pink with backlit signage wrapping around the base and cloud-shaped lights hanging above. Sassy girl-speak, such as “I love the glamourous life” and “what a diva wants...a diva gets,” is scrolled on walls throughout the store.

To inspire their shoppers, designers worked directly with Torrid’s buying team to create a fixture strategy that puts the latest fashion must-haves in the best light possible. “Folding a core item, like sweaters or denim, is the best way to show the variety of colors and styles,” says Kinsley.

So while Torrid’s former stores housed lots of tall fixtures with just one small table for folded items, the new store features an array of large tables and boutique-style fixtures that can accommodate shelves and three-quarter forms. “It’s about offering a lot of inspiration for pulling outfits together,” says Kinsley.

Another source of sartorial advice comes from a floating wall that was relocated from the front of the older stores to behind the centrally located cashwrap. The wall puts seasonal fashions on display from floor to ceiling and also creates a divider between the main selling floor and the lingerie department. “When you looked into our old stores, you saw a wall of bras,” says Kinsley. “We wanted a more intimate environment for our shoppers.”

And what’s the finishing touch to this diva design? A signature store scent, of course – a light, feminine fragrance to complement Torrid’s new store environment. “We’ve got clubby music, a bright atmosphere and luxurious fitting rooms,” says Kinsley. “So we thought, ‘why not appeal to another sense?’ When you leave, the scent prolongs your experience.”

Client: Torrid, City of Industry, Calif.-- Darrell Kinsley, Hot Topic vp, marketing, visual and store design; Teresa Roarick, Torrid visual manager; Jason Evans, Hot Topic, manager of construction; Brandon Sanchez, Hot Topic, construction project manager

Architect: Fitch, Scotsdale, Ariz.

Flooring: Entourage Flooring, New York

Lighting: Midwest Lighting, Los Angeles

Storefront doors: Desco Interiors, Ellington, Conn.

Metal fixtures and hardware: Laurel Manufacting, Delanco, N.J.

Millwork and Metal: Valentine Woodworks, Fullerton, Calif.

Slatwall: Spacewall, Placentia, Calif.

Scent delivery system: ScentAir, Charlotte, N.C.

Mannequins: Greneker, Los Angeles

Ceiling painting: Amy Giocomelli, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Scrims and decals: Supercolor Digital, Irvine, Calif.

Storefront Sign: Loren Signs, Montebello, Calif.

Storefront glass tile: Dal Tile, City of Industry, Calif.

Beaded Curtain: Trimco, Carteret, N.J.  

Sound System: Play Network, Redmond, Wash.

Photography: Pat Rogers Studios, Yorba Linda, Calif.