As a label that describes itself as “for women who wear lingerie as a love letter to themselves”, there was no doubt that Lonely’s latest bricks-and-mortar store would be eye-catching. Elly Strang spoke to co-founders Steve Ferguson and Helene Morris about the vision behind its Newmarket store.
Lonely is a New Zealand fashion house that designs lingerie, swimwear and clothes, but its lingerie is what has catapulted the brand to international stardom.
The company was founded in 2003 and was originally called the Lonely Hearts Club. Lonely Hearts Club began by producing t-shirts and bags, but dropped the ‘Hearts Club’ part of its name when it ventured into lingerie in 2009.
Swimwear soon followed in 2016. Since it became Lonely, the brand has rapidly gained momentum and has stockists in over 150 countries. But more notably, Lonely has transcended from fashionable clothing into a worldwide movement. Its international campaign, the Lonely Girls project, features raw, body positive portraits of women from all over the globe wearing its lingerie.
The project has since made worldwide headlines as celebrities like Girls actresses Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke have stripped down to their intimates to contribute to the campaign.
Its co-founders say they want to foster a “sense of positive body image and freedom of expression” through Lonely’s designs, and this is also evident in the design of its stores. Its latest store opened in Newmarket on Teed St in September, bringing its total of bricks-and-mortar stores to three nationwide.
Meticulous attention has been paid to every detail in the store, just like Lonely’s intricate lingerie designs. The space is soft and curvaceous, with subtle touches of luxury. Co-founders Steve Ferguson and Helene Morris say they spent six months planning what the new space would look like and then 10 weeks executing it. They say the design values have remained consistent across all three of their stores.
“We believe that each store is an evolution of the former, and that it should nestle softly and complement its surrounding environment while adding longterm value to the location it is in.” Rufus Knight of Knight Associates came on board for the fit-out – the same man who collaborated on the previous two stores’ designs.
Both stores went on to win Best Design Awards in 2014 and 2015. “We have worked with some of the same people and teams for all three of our stores so have close connections with them,” Morris says. “They share similar values of design and quality and we think this can be seen in the execution and detailing throughout our stores.” Ferguson says with the Newmarket store, their goal was to create an “intimate and safe environment” that engaged people’s senses through the materials used, the overall design and the way customers could interact within the space.
One of his and Morris’ favourite features is the shapes within the store. “With Newmarket, the entire interior is made up of curves,” he says. “This helps bring a sense of softness while ensuring a beautiful flow is achieved. This feeling of motion is really unique and special to us.”
Parallels can be drawn between the choice of materials in the Newmarket store and the way Lonely designs its clothing.
“We used soft, rich navy velvet contrasted with brass and bronze metal, and beautiful textured linen alongside dark and light oaks.” “The walls of our Newmarket space are a soft blush-coloured textured finish, we had recently travelled to Los Angeles and loved the soft muted pastel buildings and felt that aesthetic and mood really suited this new space.”
Simplicity is key, with the outside of the store featuring an understated ‘Lonely’ sign and no other shop frontage. A dusky-pink walled corridor and a warm timber floor curls around from the entrance, leading the customer into the world of Lonely. “We wanted to build anticipation and a sense of mystery into this process,” Morris explains. “We wanted to create a space of rest where customers can transition from the outside world into the Lonely world.” The door handle to the store is also striking.
The design was created in a bronze cast finish by local artist Kate Newby for the store. Morris describes it as a “playful” feature within the otherwise stark environment. The Newmarket store also has various types of seating scattered throughout it, including a chair flanking each corner of the shop and a velvet couch in the middle of it.
She says this helps customers relax, take their time and feel comfortable, as if they are being welcomed into their own home. “Seating provides a space for everyone who enters to enjoy the experience regardless of who they are. Fitting lingerie is also often more time consuming than clothing, so we wanted anyone waiting to be comfortable and relaxed in our space also.”
Aside from seating, other comforts are on offer. A built-in, gold brushed tap was created by Robinson Interiors so that fresh water can be offered to customers who peruse the lingerie. The brass table in the centre of the store has concealed drawers to hide away any clutter and keep the store’s minimalist look intact. The shop’s overall look has captured the feminine charms of Lonely, with a dash of mystery and boldness. In a time where ecommerce spending is on the rise, the pair says they hope that the store creates a new kind of retail experience for visitors.
“As a brand we like to challenge and surprise our customer,” Morris says. “We don’t think of it so much as risk, but more we hope that we inspire and have created a fresh take on a retail experience through our store designs.”