Next Stop: Innovation

Pop-ups and temporary installations reigned supreme in this year’s 24th annual competition
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Posted July 30, 2018

International Visual Competition: Best in Show Winner
Temporary/Pop-Up Retail Space
"Coach Subway"
Submitted by: Coach, New York

Now in its 24th year, the annual International Visual Competition showcases the best in non-permanent store displays of limited shelf life. This year, the VMSD editorial staff and competition judges witnessed a dramatic influx of pop-up and temporary retail activations. One, however, rose above the rest.

Coach (New York) didn’t shy away from the challenge of creating a realistic subway car through a collaboration with Hong Kong-based retailer Lane Crawford. The installation, which worked as a pop-up shop, offered customers the latest Coach gear and a chance to personalize their purchases with on-site monogramming. The pop-up concept was built at two locations (one location featured two full subway cars, while the other housed a full subway car and two stations), in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Similar to the brand’s global window rollout of subway interiors in 2016, the design team worked hard to refresh the concept while also delivering a new look and feel to help it stand apart.

Attention to intricate details helped bring this project to life, creating an immersive experience. The monogramming station is in the conductor’s area of the car, while the main interior boasts product as well as clever custom graphics. The subway tiles lining the corridor walls surrounding the car were made out of routed leaderboard, but resembled real tile, adding to the sense of authenticity. The car itself was fully realized, even down to the rivets holding it all together.

“It’s so accurate to real life,” says Pedro Motta, 3-D Design Manager, Brand Visual Experience, Coach, who worked closely on the project. “In the most humbling way possible to say that it’s like a real subway car. If it had an engine on it, it would probably run.”

One of the biggest challenges in executing the design was the cross-collaboration between the various design departments of Coach, many of which were on the other side of the world while the onsite design team was implementing the final activation.

“As amazing as it was to work with many internal and external cross-functional, local and international teams, ranging from store ops to procurement, sourcing, production and marketing; it was also the most challenging part of the project,” says Samar Younes, Global Design Director, Brand Visual Experience, Coach. “The success of the design was a testament to working closely as a team, solving multiple steps and hurdles along the way within the design process, and staying on top of every detail while keeping the integrity and purity of our concept.”

In the end, Motta says his favorite part of the project was the time spent researching and then creating the memorable space. “We went down a rabbit hole of detail looking at all the little intricate connections that you would find in a real subway and then bringing that into the actual design,” says Motta. “That was my favorite part because I would lose myself in the process, it was very satisfying.”

The judges had praise for the pop-up, which took temporary shops to a new level of engagement.

“The fact that it’s not printed feels very organic,” says Brent Hodge, Director, Merchandising and Creative, Bromwell’s (Cincinnati), a judge in this year’s competition.

“This project defines the pop-up store,” says competition judge Jalpa Patel, Interior Architect, ZenGenius Inc. (Columbus, Ohio). “[Pop-ups] need to have versatility, need to be movable and need to be different. This project is trying something new, and it looks good.”

To learn more about this year's International Visual Competition winners and honorable mentions, be sure to check vmsd.com throughout the month of August.