On Monday, Zara posted a TikTok video of its Soho storefront in NYC, featuring what appeared to be a digital art installation serving as a window display. It’s since been viewed more than 12 million times, and earned Zara a record number of likes (700,000) and shares (41,000) among its TikTok posts. Included in the 6,000 comments are several iterations of, “I will go there tomorrow, it’s beautiful.”
However, anyone who followed through with that plan was no doubt disappointed; one LinkedIn user commented on one of the shared posts with, “It got me down there! Then I realized it was just a TikTok!” There’s no physical counterpart to Zara’s TikTok; the company commissioned the featured artwork exclusively for social media, said Shane Fu, the motion design artist behind it. Zara didn’t respond to a request for comment.
While it could easily be called misleading — especially considering the caption (“Walking through our Soho store”) and included hashtag: #zarastores — Zara’s captivating post has effectively stirred buzz and worked to attract people to one of its stores. In doing so, it’s brought about a big question about retail’s evolution and direction: Considering the new ease of online shopping and the attention suck that are social platforms, will a store need to provide a museum-like experience to be a draw?
“There are a lot of questions around the true cost of implementing [an installation like Zara posted] and the scalability of it, and whether the post creates a false reality of what is possible,” said Melissa Gonzalez, CEO of retail strategy and design firm The Lionesque Group, an MG2 Company. “But what Zara has done here is continue to push the industry and conversation forward. We’re seeing live validation of the possible ROI around investments into art-and-physical retail because of the instant virality the brand is getting. They’ve activated a fandom.”
Of course, art and fashion retail coming together is nothing new. The two worlds have increasingly intermingled over time, which, to some extent, can be owed to “the Virgil Abloh effect.” The designer has continued to extend his influence over the fashion industry, all the while making an art-led approach his M.O. The Chicago concept store he co-founded in 2019 is named RSVP Gallery. His latest Off-White runway show, for fall 2021, was dubbed “Laboratory of Fun,” calling to mind a trendy museum-funhouse. And an exhibition featuring his work opened in early July at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, after debuting in Chicago in 2019.
As more retailers take inspiration from the art world, they’re inserting art elements that go beyond now-standard sculptures and wall art. For example, late last month, Selfridges revealed a five-ton canvas by artist Osman Yousefzada enveloping the exterior of its Birmingham, U.K. store. And Kith has enlisted design studio Snarkitecture, which has hosted its own immersive art installation in NYC, to give five of its stores a comparable feel. “Kith in Paris is more than a store,” said Matt Rowean, CCO and partner at creative agency Matte Projects. “It’s a combination of elements that form an experience.”
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