Listen, Enjoy and Have Patience | An Interview with Andy and Chris

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Listen, enjoy and have patience; this is the motto of London-based designers Chris Dewar-Dixon and Andy Bone. Their extensive experience in branding, interior design and architecture led them to create their own company, Studio Four IV.

Having worked with world’s most influential luxury brands, Studio Four IV is behind some of the world’s most interesting and exciting projects. Jointly owned by Andy and Chris, Andy is responsible for 2D, anything from graphic identity and print to website design, while Chris takes care of 3D side of the business relating to the interior and architecture projects.

What led you and your co-founders to creating Studio Four IV?

Andy: We set up Studio Four IV about 30 years ago. We are both very inspired by design, It’s a passion and a lifestyle. Quite early on we started working with luxury brands like Harvey Nichols, Mulberry, Dupont and high end hotel brands so we have always been working with the luxury world, but we also enjoy working with the high street brands like Marks & Spencer and Tesco. The company grew, primarily in retail. A few years ago we decided to go smaller and be a bit more selective about the brands we work with. As a whole, the retail design world has changed and we found that working with a small team and being able to utilize our contacts based on the needs of the project works best.

Harvey Nichols Store in Baku

Where do you think retail design will bring the store tomorrow?

Andy: Many retail and luxury brands are struggling with where they should invest their money. Should they be investing in brick and mortar, should they be focused on digital? The whole market place is changing and the way we interact with each other is different. It is becoming much more about creating an experience to bring people in and experience the brand, as opposed to a hard core selling space. Generally the question is, what can you bring that will pick people up off the sofa and bring them into the store, mingling with like-minded people and sitting in an environment where they feel inspired? How do you make your communication through technology and how do you intertwine it seamlessly with the in-store experience? In terms of that human desire to experience things and be inspired, that will always be there. It is what people want – it’s just with different tools now.

“Rather than creating spaces now, we are creating experiences.” 

Christopher: As Andy said, technology is just another route to experience a brand. There are a lot of different ways to experience a brand whether it be reading, visiting the store, sounds, music, and technology. Brands even create their own scents and fragrances in-store to make sure you belong to that particular tribe, group or aspirations. A few years ago we did a health and beauty project for Harvey Nichols called Beauty Bazaar. It’s a standalone small department store, but it’s really different from the traditional beauty and health and skincare brands. With a big open interactive space with a nail bar, brow bar, hairdressers, champagne bar, and a coffee shop, it’s a space for women to go and enjoy themselves. And then on the top floor is slightly more private space, but it’s all under one roof. It is a one-stop shop.

It is very common to hear about pop-ups. Do you think brands are willing to use this strategy to test?

Christopher: Yes, absolutely. Pop-ups are becoming more and more relevant. They are allowing brands to explore new market places, or even old market places that have been deactivated. Pop-ups allow for a controlled brand experience. They reinforce that specific attitude of a brand at that moment. So you might get an extreme beauty brand that pops up in a department store for a few weeks. First of all, it’s very engaging to the consumer because it’s only available for a limited time, it’s a driver to get new or existing customers into the store to learn more about the brand in a tangible way and they are quite cost effective

Which brands would you love to work with?

Christopher: Personally, I would like to do a multi-brand store for men. It’s a massively growing market place and I don’t think many people have cracked it the same way they have with women’s multi brand stores. I think it would be a very rewarding store to design, because with all the learning and international experience our firm has, we understand international demographics, different cultural behaviours and to bring that together in a menswear store that isn’t just purely focused on high end fashion, but focused on things like office wear, sportswear, image etc. would be great.

The Lobby of Mandarin Oriental in Taipei

Andy: There is a lot happening in automotive retail with brands like Tesla. Luxury branded cars are being retailed amongst the luxury clothes shops. Also, what I find really inspiring is working with new people, developing new products, new ideas, where we can start very early in the process and be involved in something from the beginning.

What studio projects are you most proud of?

Christopher: We have worked with Harvey Nichols for a many years and have worked with them on their international franchise stores as well, so we have done full-line department stores for them in Istanbul and elsewhere. I have built a very strong relationship with the owner and the team at Harvey Nichols and I am also used to working in different cultural backgrounds, so have a strong understanding of how to develop the look and feel of the store for that particular target market. We have also had great success with The Mandarin Oriental which is a huge hotel brand. We did a hotel for them in Taipei a few years ago, that was incredibly exciting, and I am very proud of the work that we achieved there. Every single piece of furniture including, lighting, rugs etc. were bespoke designs by Studio Four IV which were manufactured by craftsman and artisans, so that was a beautiful piece of work. Projects like these are really inspiring.

“No matter where you are, as long as you keep your eyes open, experience and inspiration comes from everywhere.”

Mandarin Oriental in Taipei

Which cities do you consider avant-garde in terms of retail?

Christopher: In terms of technology, there is absolutely no doubt that Tokyo, Hong Kong are. Those cities are really poised to explore technological advancements. It is at the forefront of their lives and way of thinking. In women’s fashion for me, Paris, is just the epicentre. It embraced the past and really brought it forward as a relevant part of today. The luxury brands in Paris are the real artisan brands to me. I also love London and I love to go to quieter places. We are very open to any cities that are doing interesting things in retail.

Andy: For a mix between new retail and new architecture – you can see a good example of that in London, which has expanded and developed the Kings Cross area and they brought in Central St Martins School of Art. Building around that, there is a lot of exciting new retail, restaurant spaces and brands like Tom Dixon bringing in their stores and eateries. And within cities like New York, Chicago and London you are getting a lot more of the small pop-up and artisan stores appearing and that becomes very inspirational.

Tell us the most important thing you have learned during your career.

Andy: When you are working with brands, the key thing is to listen rather than just talk, and to work as a team. So you need to listen to what people are after and usually they don’t tell you straight away what they actually want. They have a brief written, but what they haven’t told you is what they want it to feel like or how the experience should be, so you always need to listen to them, and then interpret and create. And you need to enjoy what you do – if you aren’t enjoying the work, you can’t create something good.

Christopher: For me personally, I have learned patience and that things don’t change overnight, they have their own time. Patience is a massive virtue in what we do, trying to pick away at a client’s problem to really understand them, and then provide them with a solution that is full of energy and rewarding, not just for sales, but in brand building. This demands a lot of patience and thinking time. For me, that is the biggest lesson that I have learned.

By: Elena Parise & Merve Durmus