Like a duck to water

Lakshmi Bhaskaran tours Mandarina Duck’s impressive London flagship, under the watchful eye of its resident, a giant yellow mannequin

After months of hype, the signature yellow paper that has dressed the windows of Mandarina Duck’s London flagship for what seemed like an eternity was finally torn down last week, as the company’s third European ’embassy’, the WanderDuck, finally opened its doors to the public.

And what a transformation it is – the previously rather pokey two-storey retail space has been totally revamped into a living, breathing, 21st century House of Gulliver, designed by Mandarina’s man of the moment, Marcel Wanders.

By removing the interior walls and part of the adjoining ceiling, Wanders has managed to completely open up the space into a fluid showcase for Mandarina’s latest collection of ‘wantable’ clothing and accessories. Commanding the most attention – not least for the somewhat disproportionate size of his ‘manhood’ – is Gulliver himself, a 7m-tall, imposing yellow mannequin that towers over the two floors, while a further 40 smaller, breathing mannequins can be found dotted around the store displaying his wares.

Up on the first floor, further products are displayed on glass tables and shelving, while a giant mirror of Gulliver proportions again plays with the idea of scale to excellent effect.

The whole concept of WanderDuck is based around the very antithesis of static, inflexible structure of ‘the store’ as we know it. From the 60cm-high chrome wall connected to an ‘external breathing system’ to the constant stream of air bubbles that float around the outside of the store, there is a constant sense of movement that reflects Mandarina Duck’s travelling instinct. ‘I wanted to make a shop which was inspiring and different, not only a great architectonic design but also even more of a breathtaking experience,’ says Wanders. ‘A shop you are sure you want to visit first if you are in town and at the same time a shop where you can find and buy your bags and apparel in a fun and nice way if you visit the store regularly.’

Designed to appeal as both a one-stop shop for international travellers, as well as a regular hangout for locals, Mandarina Duck has taken it upon itself to create an almost ‘club’-type atmosphere by also selling everything from the latest magazines to maps of the most fashionable cities, as well as providing information on the latest places to see and, more importantly, be seen in the city.

The question is, has Mandarina Duck managed to pull it off? From a design perspective, the answer would have to be a resounding yes. Wanders has succeeded in creating a totally unique retail environment that not only attracts attention from the outside, but also optimises the space within. As to the store’s theme, I’m not sure quite how many visitors will make the Gulliver connection. But even without it, the WanderDuck is sure to attract enough attention to get customers through the door and that, after all, is the name of the game. For, once inside, the products are more than capable of selling themselves.

Mandarina Duck, 16 Conduit Street, London W1S

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