In conversation with Giovanni Zaccariello, SVP Global Visual Experience at Coach.
SDD: As the SVP of Global Visual Experience at Coach, you've been instrumental in revolutionising physical retail with a range of engaging activations globally. Can you share some key principles or strategies that have consistently worked in creating such visually compelling brand spaces?
GZ: Some of the consistent principles include: 1. Putting the consumer always first, 2. somehow always feel "a little uncomfortable" which means we are doing something new, 3. pushing a test & learn agenda each season to continue to experiment no matter what, 4. promote the '5-senses' to create experiences that are fully immersive with the goal to create a long-lasting connection when consumers visit the spaces we design.
Born To Shine Installation, Chengdu IFS
SDD: Coach is synonymous with its distinctive visual identity. How do you ensure that the brand's core values and aesthetics are seamlessly translated into physical retail environments while still allowing room for creativity and innovation?
GZ: The design team lives & breathes Coach day in and day out - they know our codes, our color palette, and what we stand for as a brand. They know our heritage, our story, and where we are headed. We use this only as a foundation for each project - however, as part of our philosophy, each designer pushes the needle each time, conquering a new territory. Over time our aesthetics have evolved thanks to this approach. Our brand visual identity is always evolving, just like our consumer's behavior. The best example of this is the roll-out of our Coach Play concept in Singapore, Chicago & Tokyo with many more to come soon. These are fully immersive concept stores that celebrate our brand heritage as well as lean into localization & experimentation.
Coach Play Store Concepts
SDD: In such a digital world, how do you see the role of physical retail spaces evolving, and how have you adapted to these changes in creating engaging brand experiences?
GZ: At Coach, we no longer see digital & physical as separate worlds. We start all projects with an omni-channel mindset. Some call it phygital, but I prefer the word hyper-physical where the two worlds collide without our consumers noticing. In the digital space, we have used the last few years to test & learn.
Some recent examples of this have been: 1. our 3D screen in Piccadilly featuring LNX, 2. our holiday NTFs featuring our mascots, 3. our partnership with ZERO10 on the build-out of a digital window mirror in our Soho store, 4. plenty of games in select regions around the world, 5. a partnership this year with Decentraland for Fashion Week.
Coach Digital Concepts
SDD: Coach has a vast global footprint. Can you share an example of a particularly challenging but successful brand activation or visual space transformation in a different cultural context, and what lessons were learned from that experience?
GZ: At Coach are obsessed over localization & making sure that each creative resonates with local consumers. Our global creative teams work in tandem with our regional visuals teams at every step of the way to ensure it's all accounted for. The process is rewarding each time. The best example is the launch of our Tabby Shop in Tokyo, where as much as the concept was global, the execution was incredibly location, celebrating local 'kawaii' codes & traditions.
Coach Tabby Shop Tokyo
SDD: Engaging brand visual spaces often incorporate technology. What are some innovative technologies or trends you've explored to enhance customer experiences in Coach's retail spaces?
GZ: We have enjoyed keeping technology top of mind to enhance experiences when it makes sense. This is never forced into a project or a design - but it compliments it. The two best examples are our ZERO10 mirror in Soho (soon rolling out to more locations) & our Coachtopia cloud immersive experience in Singapore. What we love about these is that visitors have a real active role in creating content & invite friends to participate and just have fun.
Coachtopia Cloud Room, Singapore / ZERO10 Digital Mirror Soho, NYC
SDD: Sustainability is a growing concern in the retail industry. How can brands begin to approach the creation of environmentally friendly and sustainable visual spaces whilst ensuring they deliver a luxury experience?
GZ: This has been top of mind at Coach. Since I joined the team we have been looking at ways to reduce waste: 1. we eliminated 3D windows in Retail, 2. we design with modularity in mind so each creative can travel to multiple locations, 3. we usually re-purpose last year's Retail creative into our Outlet channel the year after & so much more.
This year we have launched a sub-brand Coachtopia as a commitment to circularity. All product is made from Coach scraps and so is the VM & the pop-ups. This is incredibly complex to achieve hence we are launching slowly one region at a time. We have launched Europe with a bespoke pop-up in Selfridges, in North America with a takeover of our Soho store, and Singapore. We will be launching in 2 weeks in Tokyo as well. Each design element is 100% circular - from the fixtures, the graphics, the hangers, the mannequins, and all the art pieces are made by locally selected artists who believe in a more circular future.
Coachtopia, Soho NYC / Singapore / Selfridges, London
SDD: There are a lot of well-documented reports on the changing retail landscape. How have you adapted your approach to creating physical brand spaces in response to these challenges?
GZ: What I love the most is truly understanding how consumer behavior is changing - as this not only impacts retail but the world & habits at large. At Coach, we deep dive into this a lot and really focus on these insights. We test ideas with our regional teams around the world, they are the experts and much closer to the customers. Especially after the pandemic, this has become common practice as we continue to learn how retail is shaping in each country.
Wear Your Shine Installation, TX Huaihai Outdoor Plaza
SDD: As a leader in the industry, what advice would you give to emerging creatives looking to make their mark?
GZ: Do your research, see what’s happening around you but do your thing and follow your instinct. There is so much of the same out there. What’s so powerful is that each creative has a different POV and for me, that’s super special & unique. I celebrate different thinking & creative ideas. Overall, don’t be scared to try new stuff - what’s the worst that can happen? You may be surprised and start a trend after all.
Giovanni is the SVP of Global Visual Experience at Coach.
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