Inside the World of Uncommon Sartorialism with Geraldine
Servaire & Co is all about the human adventure in creation. A team composed of designers and storytellers with strong personalities; they dedicate themselves to observing and listening to things and translating them into a tangible reality.
Geraldine Servaire-Mahieux, co-founder and director of Blue Factory and the Servaire & Co store design team, describes the company as passionate and fresh – a global art direction agency specializing in branding, merchandising and product & packaging design. MiND had the pleasure of speaking with Geraldine and delving into how this company shakes up the world of luxury retail and design.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m an interior architect. I started my career at Givenchy as a retail designer in 2001. It was the moment when the fashion, fragrance and cosmetic industry was exploding, so they were in need of many designers and interior architects. I took the opportunity and stayed at Givenchy for 3 years, afterwards, moving to Chanel for 8 years. This is how I built my knowledge in the industry, learning from the best in the field.
"Architecture and retail are about living, it is not only a nice picture but entering the place and feeling it. My goal is to create objects and places where people, consumers as well as shop assistants, can live."
Then came another opportunity for my career when I joined my husband who had his own company for product design, branding, and graphic design that is now Servaire & Co. It was mostly focused on product design at that time, so retail design was a small part of its business until they had the opportunity to work with Calvin Klein and Coty. This is how we started working together, building Blue Factory: blue is the symbol of creativity and infinity. And ‘factory’ features us being industrial designers; we create, we innovate and go beyond to make sure everything is executed properly. Good execution is at the core of our business. Collaborating with artisans and manufacturers is a big part of our work. In store design, our main objective at first is to create places where people are happy to live there, so, details are really important. We focus on very small pieces of details as well we focus on architecture. We design spaces and their objects as a whole experience.
You told us that your company will exist more and more as Blue Factory in the future. Can you tell us more about this evolution?
After having worked with Coty, the second great opportunity we had a few months later was to work with Dolce & Gabbana. We built very strong identity hand in hand with the fashion house. It took us four years of intensive work to build everything from furniture to display, taking the inspiration from the Sicilian sun, the designer Gio Ponti and the old italian movies.
Now, we are working for Bottega Veneta which is another great opportunity for us. What is really interesting to work with Italian brands is that common love for art, architecture, and culture we both have. It is always very inspiring and interesting to discover.
Servaire & Co is still there and we are still linked companies, helping each other. It is true that Blue Factory stayed under the shadow of Servaire & Co for years. Now our goal for Blue Factory is to turn it into a creative retail design studio. As Servaire & Co, we are a family company and we want to keep it in a reasonable scale, maintaining the strong relationship with our clients.
Personalization seems to be at the core of your works. Can you give us some examples?
When a brand comes to us, the first thing we do is to learn about it in order to translate it into a living space or an object. Our goal is to know who we are working with. To do that, it is necessary to have the curiosity and the love for the people you work with. For example, Dolce & Gabbana is so expressive, deep and interesting. There is so much story to tell about it such as where they come from, how they’ve built their fashion brand in the 80’s very distinct and innovative.
"Our long term collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana inspired us so much and considering the story telling and creating, it reminds me of the Italian word “Sartoria” - which means the art of tailoring for a person. We are sartoria. It is what we do. When you understand what the story of each product is, then you have something to tell people."
« Metteurs en scène », Theatre directors, this is your team title: can you describe what it means?
We see the store as an interactive scene. Product is our actor and the scene we imagine tells its story. We design to create lively places. That is very interesting because it is all about curiosity, creativity, innovation and also getting inspired by what is happening all around us.
Tell us about your approach to new projects or clients.
Now, we are building new strong partneships, with Laura Mercier. We are creating everything from the in-store experience, the architecture and the merchandising. That is a great new challenge that brings us to work hand in hand with their teams in NYC, in a most exciting way.
Talking about the experience, the first thing is to be simple. An experience can be how you feel in the place you are; what is the sensitivity of that space. It can be ugly or very nice but there is always something real happening. Also, I think consumers are changing nowadays and that they don’t want to own a lot but they just want that right product. This change at the moment inspires me. There will be transformation in retail and it is very interesting. As a retail designer, I want to move on that direction and design places that participates to the long-lasting affection that the consumer has for what he has chosen to buy.
We also work for the Diptyque team for their shops and boutiques. What is super interesting is that all the boutiques are different from each other. The design in Dubai is not the same with the one in Hong Kong, in Paris or in London, but the brand identity remains strong whereas each boutique brings a different experience.
What brands’ in-store experiences do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy department stores like Liberty in London, as well as small independent stores.
I regret that today, many big retailers are selling the same things in the same way. It is more like industrial retail which I don’t really like. There was a moment when little retails had something to say; workers choosing their pieces and showing in their little boutiques. It disappeared in the last decade. I used to live in Le Marais in Paris. It was different with people who lived there having their own art galleries or little shops. Now they don’t but hopefully it is changing again. I prefer when entrepreneurs, small or less established brands have pop-ups and the opportunity to tell something new and different than what you see in the current standardized retail market.
Can you tell us about any exciting future projects?
We are working on Blue Factory for the future. It will happen in the beginning of 2019. Nowadays we are creating the identity for it. As an entrepreneur I have our work, activity, knowledge, creativity to show our clients, and bring my team into this. We will make it all together. I need to bring them with me into the dream I want to reach, that is very important to me.
By Coty @Bottega Veneta
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
When you have a career you need people’s advice that make your mind. My husband really helped me to get here. It was quite complicated to leave such a big company, Chanel, and run my own business. I wouldn’t have done that without him. He is very talented, hardworking and someone so reliable. There were also other people that changed me in a good way. For example a woman I met in Chanel, since my work is about very little details, she taught me a project can be so different even with the very small change in details. She gave me the knowledge. Another woman that I met was the general director of the fragrances at Dolce & Gabbana at that time. She was tough pushing me to do the best, and helped me a lot to do so. She really helped us to be who we are today. She is such an important person in my life. The best advice ever: work, never surrender and be passionate.