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The Refreshing of Fresh

Mapos’ redesign of Fresh’s flagship store in Union Square retains the company’s established brand message, while adding in hints of sustainability and technology.

By Elianne Halbersberg

Photos by Daniel Martynetz, Jean-Marc Plisson and Eric C. White

Twenty years ago, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg created the luxury skin and body care company known as Fresh. Using only natural ingredients, they began with a soap collection and gradually expanded to include makeup, candles, hair care, fragrance, body care and skin care for both men and women.

Last year, Fresh—now owned by LVMH, with Glazman and Roytberg onboard as stakeholders and creative directors—decided that it was time to refresh its flagship Union Square store. Mapos LLC was chosen to helm the redesign.

Mapos principals and co-founders Caleb Mulvena and Colin Brice brought high-end experience from their work with Peter Marino + Associates and Pompei AD, respectively. (At Pompei, Brice oversaw the design of Kiehl’s new concept and rollout several years ago.) “I think Fresh liked Mapos and asked us to pitch because obviously we had experience in the beauty industry, but secondly, we’re a sustainable design firm and they like that ethic,” says Brice. “It sits very well with their fresh ingredients and fresh attitude.”

“It was a great collaborative process,” he says of the Union Square redesign. “Fresh had done a really good job of mining their own brand, and coming up with certain ideas and themes. These included a bakery concept because of sensorial aspects of the ingredients that go into the products; a library concept because of the history of the brand and alchemy in general, and the knowledge that goes into that; and a laboratory concept because of the alchemy approach and the mixing of ingredients to get the finished product.”

Through sketching, imagery and research, Mapos developed a finished product that reflects the original concepts. The Fresh bakery showcases assorted soaps behind glass, similar to the way pastries are displayed. The laboratory is represented by a custom chandelier made of glass vials and globes. The library houses books, videos and iPads, combining old and new media. Christie Micro Tiles create small interactive screens around the store and a prominent LED monitor in the back tells the story of Fresh. A large, centrally located table made of reclaimed walnut offers a kitchen setting where customers can interact and experience Fresh products. Mapos also created floor and wall spaces for shelves and niches to display artifacts and products.

Mapos began working with Fresh last November, strategizing, planning and discussing the details of the renovation. “The ‘os’ in Mapos means ‘open source,’” says Brice. “We take that literally, meaning that it’s a team effort. We create an open source model where everybody has a voice, an opinion, and we create a platform where those opinions can be heard, edited, developed and discussed. It’s imperative for us, in every project that we do, that we include all the stakeholders in that design process, and not just work in our office and come back and present to them, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’”

Glazman and Roytberg were involved in every step of the redesign, including eight months of weekly or bi-weekly meetings. “The ‘map’ in Mapos means to map, to strategize, to help people find their way; that’s how we see our role,” Brice continues. “This was the first time that Fresh undertook the process of a significant re-brand. Their stores were very clean and appropriate, but they weren’t necessarily speaking to the brand. They took this initiative very seriously. They have a great loyal following and customer base and it was time for their environment to be as successful as their products. Fresh is about the ingredients and the process they go through to make these amazing products—those details set them apart in the marketplace. We took that as a metaphor for the design by saying, ‘It’s all about the details.’”

"Fresh is about the ingredients and the process they go through to make these amazing products," says Mapos principal and co-founder Colin Brice. "Those details set them apart in the marketplace. We took that as a metaphor for the design by saying, ‘It’s all about the details.’”

Construction lasted approximately one month, with onsite contractor Apogee and Philadelphia-based fixture fabricator Amaneil joining the effort. Brice describes the process as “kind of a mad dash, very intense,” but because time is money in retail, it was imperative to work quickly. Mapos developed a strategy to expedite the process without sacrificing quality. “We minimized the amount of work the general contractor had to do, and the bulk of the work was with the fixture fabricator, so they could be in their shop, working in their controlled environment,” says Brice. “Then, in the course of about a week, they shipped everything and installed it in that last week. The contractor did demolition, prepping the walls and ceiling, things like that, but the warehouse is where most of that energy was focused.”

Mapos specializes in sustainable architecture and applied those principals to the Fresh redesign. The Union Square store is on a corner, with storefront windows on its west and north sides providing abundant natural light, thus reducing energy loads. All of the wood used in the space is reclaimed and remilled walnut from a local source, and the extensive use of glass and steel means many of the materials will be recyclable later. The existing ceramic floor was reused (“Reuse is free,” Brice says), and low-VOC paints from Benjamin Moore were applied inside. All of the lighting, except for the chandelier, is LED, and the Micro Tile screens are LED-based, meaning lower electrical bills inside; because less heat is put off by the LEDs, the air conditioning system can shrink as well.

“The decisions in some of those infrastructural systems are key,” Brice adds. “They are somewhat invisible, but a lot of sustainability comes from the mechanical and electrical systems.”

Mapos is now applying the design concept to Fresh stores in Seoul and Hong Kong. “They’ve started fabrication in Korea and they’ve opened some of the shops,” says Brice. “In Hong Kong, the first store is opening in Canton Road Mall and that’s probably going to be their Asian flagship, so they’re excited to see how it turns out.”

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