Exploring Amsterdam's retail space
Amsterdam’s Director of Strategy, Nicole Buchanan, has been out exploring the city. She takes a look at what’s happening for brands and creatives in this increasingly influential space.
Today, just shy of a million people live in Amsterdam.
It’s the archetype of liberalism and experimentation in Europe. A clever, compact little place known for hidden pockets of counterculture and the arts, a maze of canals and a burgeoning reputation as home to some of the most innovative, influential and sustainable brands around.
With start-ups and scale-ups raising a record €3.8bn in 2021, the city has aligned its rich cultural diversity and entrepreneurialism to position itself as one of Europe’s fastest growing creative hubs.
A city from the ages is once again at the forefront of innovation. Here’s a selection of recent projects that have really impressed me.
H&M + Dashl
The latest collab between H&M and beauty brand Dashl is really great. Here is a big-box retailer located in blue chip real estate on Dam square, partnering with a growing Swedish brand to bring beauty to the masses.
Currently, Dashl offers in-store services whilst you shop at H&M. You get your nails done, your eyebrows tinted, whatever you need; the female founders ‘offer beauty that’s not too time consuming.’
Over the past five years, Dashl have delivered big in both Sweden and Germany, becoming an industry standard for reliable, high quality and sustainable beauty. Over 95% of its stylists are women from diverse backgrounds. The brand also ensures fair and ethical working standards for staff, and competitive salaries and benefits such as training and development through an in-house Beauty Academy.
They’re an attractive proposition for value-driven Gen Z, and H&M have shown real foresight in supporting that.
Baskèts is one of Amsterdam’s most exciting concept stores. They’ve become a go-to for street culture, on trend fashion and limited edition drops.
This summer the brand really connected with the fashion and performance community in Amsterdam through the Baskèts Tennis Open 2022. Baskèts brought together 18 teams across 35 games of tennis, with every player dressed head to toe in customised adidas gear.
With Stan Smith stealing the show, the moment was a hugely impactful nod to the cool aesthetic of classic tennis.
Re-imagining the showroom
Back in 2020, a new automotive brand named Lync & Co launched in Amsterdam. According to Founder and CEO Alain Visser, the city was specifically chosen because of its pro-environmental culture. “If we want to make a real statement about the fact that we’re not a traditional car brand,’ Visser said, ‘then let’s go to the city that you could say hates cars.”
Lync & Co offers consumers a month-to-month membership subscription where they “get a damn good car that you can keep forever or leave wherever.”
They explore new ways to connect with their consumers, experimenting with a few permanent ‘retail’ locations and over 700 pop-ups across Europe.
But how do you design a ‘showroom’ for a car you don’t buy? You don’t. You re-imagine it as a Club House for members. Lync & Co position their spaces as social hangouts rather than car showrooms. Programmable spaces with events activating during the week, to encourage people to keep coming back. The Club hosts local DJ’s, exclusive sneaker drops and film screenings – everything you see, you can buy…. except for the car.
Dutch beauty empire Rituals has its flagship located on the Kalverstraat, the city’s busiest shopping strip. The store’s consumers are invited to experience ‘The Art of Soulful Living’, where they’re amazed by a temple to wellness.
The House of Rituals is a sensory and immersive retail experience. Carefully laid out over 1500m2, the brand takes consumers on a journey of sight, smell, taste and sound.
From an Asian-inspired, ground floor restaurant Rouhi, to a second floor Body Spa, visitors can indulge in a range of luxurious treatments, even personalising their own fragrances.
The Mind Spa takes up the third floor with a space for deep relaxation, offering meditation and relaxation techniques designed to recharge the body. The whole store represents an experience designed to help consumers de-stress and recharge in the heart of Amsterdam.
In 2021, Balenciaga opened its first and only Amsterdam space, situated on the infamous luxury high street. Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, or as the locals like to call it PC Hooftstraat.
The store reflects Balenciaga’s new retail concept designed by their in-house team: a pared-back interior with an overtly industrial aesthetic.
The Balenciaga space contrasts concrete, extruded aluminium and industrial details such as exposed cables and metal ceiling grids, with vibrant, brightly coloured velvets. It’s an instantly recognisable perfect ‘carte blanche’ backdrop, that provocatively sets the scene for ‘exhibiting’ the plush, high-end, luxury fashion and designer goods the brand have made their name with.
Since Balenciaga Amsterdam opened in 2021, we’re seeing more of this industrial visual language spliced with a techy overlay. Stores like ON Running’s latest opening in Tokyo and Gentle Monster’s three-level mega space in Beijing are great examples.
Watch this space
Finally, I’m really looking forward to the Dyson flagship on Koningsplien, as well as the much-anticipated adidas concept store on Kalverstraat. I can also confirm the rumours are true. Dior and Armani will soon be opening flagships on Dam square, in line with the cities vision to encourage luxury tourism back to the city centre.