Stepping into Faust is like going to church, but the sermon is all about bespoke shoes. The austere storefront is outfitted with dove-gray carpets and walls. Oak-wood display shelves and storage cabinets are built into the wall—underneath an arcade of Romanesque arches—and customers try on footwear in concrete niches that feel a bit like the apse of a chapel. The only glimmer of flash is the company's wordmark displayed as a golden sign on the wall.
Faust's concept, design, and branding is the work of Snøhetta, the multi-disciplinary design firm behind out-of-this world projects like Martian housing; quirky urban beehives; a landscape that insulates a particle accelerator; Norway's new banknotes; and a pavilion built for observing wild reindeer. With the shoe store—a relatively small project compared to the rest of the firm's portfolio—Snøhetta is showing what the future of retail design is about.
"Successful retail design is one that gives the customer a personal and memorable experience," Peter Girgis, the project's lead interior designer, says. "This happens when the environment, brand, and product tell a complete story no matter how big or small a space is. One of genuine quality at all levels. This is what we feel people expect today in a world when all goods and products are available in a digital version; a personal unique approach is needed to create balance."
Álvaro Miranda founded Faust earlier this year as a contemporary take on the traditional cobbler. It crafts high-end custom leather shoes and also offers ready-to-wear options. The brand's sensibility is all about elegance and sophistication, but also indulging in a luxury (hence the allusion to the German legend of Faust, the scholar who traded his soul for worldly pleasures) and Snøhetta translated those traits into design concepts.
Faust's architecture is restrained, but not without subtle nods to what the store is about. The faceted texture on the wood cabinet doors speaks to the handmade details that are involved with the craft, like carving the wood last—a model of a foot used to form shoes. The storefront's footprint is long and narrow, so Snøhetta played that up with a series of repeating arches. "The massive repeated form is in its own way a shrine to the people and products they interact with," Girgis says.
The custom font that's used for the company's wordmark and all of the printed materials—shopping bags, business cards, receipts, letterhead, etc.—was inspired by the quill-and-ink script on old Faust manuscripts. Snøhetta's designers hand drew a letterforms in the Medieval style and digitized them so they would be legible for today's readers. For all of the paper goods, which includes shoe boxes, the firm picked textured materials and embossed the logo, lending a handmade tactile feel.
"The holistic design approach is by definition to 'emphasize the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts,'" Girgis says. "That is what allows the customer to feel innately the design intentions of both the products and the environment they are set in. We truly believed in the quality and authenticity of Faust and wanted to create an environment that expressed this."
[All Photos: Lasse Fløde]