Striking a Balance

Colkitt&Co designs a high-end, luxury shopping experience in an outlet environment for the Tod’s brand, harmonizing tradition and modernity in the process.

by Elianne Halbersberg

A high-end shopping experience in an outlet setting: that’s what the new Tod’s Outlet in Destiny USA mall in Syracuse, N.Y., brings to its customers.

The 3,000-square-foot, LEED certified space was renovated and designed by Colkitt&Co, who completed the project in just three months.

Tod’s stores specialize in Italian luxury shoes and leather goods—handbags, belts, and accessories for men and women—with a brand identity they describe as “a balance of modernity and tradition.” It was important that Colkitt&Co retain the Tod’s brand identity, but upholding this ethos wasn’t about ratios and percentages, says Colkitt; it was about crafting and details.

“When you balance things, it’s not always about 50 percent this and 50 percent that,” said Nathan Colkitt, principal/CEO, Colkitt&Co. “Sometimes it’s intangible things—how some things feel. We looked at it as more like a museum, where the light takes a back seat to the art. You want a comfortable area, and places to sit and absorb what you’re taking in. That’s the thing that came closest to a Tod’s store. It’s about showcasing this product and balancing tradition as far as what you feel when you’re in the space.”

Ultimately, Colkitt’s team created an upscale retail showcase that merges comfortably within an outlet mall environment.“It was about maintaining the standards that Tod’s has set as a brand across the world,” said Colkitt, “and making sure that the finishes and textures were in keeping with that, so that when someone walks into the store, it’s fitting of the product.”

To do this, the architectural firm applied a three-prong approach: design, merchandising, and operations. “When we start the design process, we like to understand the operations, which is what allows the store to exist,” said Colkitt. “If you understand the business model, which is really the operational model, then your design will be better. You want an intuitive space where people can interact with the product and feel like there’s an ease to the shopping experience.”

To accomplish this, Colkitt&Co stayed true to the signature color palette of Tod’s

stores, which they market-studied in the U.S. and Europe. Handmade panels and trim of imported, caramel-colored Vachetta leather, and stainless steel accents and signage are set against white backdrops, with LED lighting tucked into shelving recesses and alcoves. Glass doors welcome shoppers and expose the store’s clean lines, which put the emphasis on the merchandise while not overwhelming customers with product volume.