With no formal training, Igor Ferreira has attracted big-name clients on the back of the interiors he creates for his own stores. John Stones talks to the ‘retail theatre’ maestro whose shops are more than just places for buying

Igor Ferreira is a difficult man to get hold of. ‘Sorry,’ he says, ‘I have been down at the beach for a few days and I left my phone behind.’ The Portuguese designer is no doubt taking a well-earned break, having spent the past year opening and designing a series of ever more delightful stores.

Retail, particularly when it comes to the smaller independents, is unusual in that it allows the non-trained, or amateur, to mix it with the star designer or specialist consultancy – and sometimes come out on top. Often, it is the natural flair and originality of retailers who design their own shops that professional designers and top brands seek to emulate.

Adidas, for example, enlisted Ferreira to design its store in Portugal for the Adicolor series a couple of years ago. The result was a labour of love. Old Adidas catalogues were painstakingly trawled and scissored to create mosaic-montage zones that were coloured according to the relevant sneaker on a plinth. For the floor, Panini football stickers were sorted, again according to colour (for example, Brazil and Sweden for yellow), and then covered with a protective layer. Ferreira has since transformed the store with a rough and ready grungy redesign to become a concept store for Eastpak bags.

Sneaker Delight, in Lisbon’s trendy Bairro Alto, was opened by Ferreira in 2000 as Portugal’s first specialist sneaker store. The latest of its annual refits is coming to an end as the customers will soon have finished colouring it in. Having come across the work of French illustrator Sqwak in a magazine, Ferreira invited him to Lisbon to create an intricate illustration, in black and white, covering the store’s interior. Colour marker pens, kindergarten style, were given to customers who then coloured it in.

While he doesn’t have any design or art school training, Ferreira can always phone his dad, who works in set design in The Netherlands. ‘He helps me with technical aspects, on how to actually execute the ideas,’ he explains. His family left Portugal for political reasons, emigrating to Holland where he grew up, but Ferreira returned ten years ago at the age of 27, opened a series of shops and then gradually got into decorating them himself.

Is what he does retail theatre? Ferreira is not sure, suggesting it is more about having fun. ‘I think a shop should be more than just a place where you go to buy your sneakers,’ he says. ‘It should be more like an experience. I think that although it can take attention away from the shoes, it is more fun to have a shop where people come in and have more to look at than just the shoes, or whatever you are selling. It is also more fun for me.’

It is a sentiment that has undoubtedly gone down well with the youngsters who frequent No Kidding, a children’s clothing shop that he designed for a former girlfriend, and the children’s hair salon, Facto Kids, that is attached to a salon he continues to be involved with.

Sneaker Delight has now been sold, but the store’s new owner has retained his services for a refit this September. The plan is to do a design around Converse trainers, but Ferreira hasn’t yet decided exactly what he will do. The plan is to set up so he can do more retail designs for others – to become a designer rather than an owner-retailer.

‘I should get my own website and stuff,’ Ferreira says. Yes, he probably should, although at this time of year the attractions of the beach clearly outweigh business and technical ones. And you can be sure Ferreira will be having fun, whether in his designs or otherwise.

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