LIFE after death: The rebirth of a concept store

It has finally happened. And it is going to raise the bar. It is LIFE — our very first REAL concept store in Saudi Arabia.

Now to let you all in on a little secret: Many stores have claimed they are concept stores and many others may have even started out as one; but, in the end, they all seem to have fallen short… until now.

Let’s be clear: Having candles and selling books, holding an exhibit once a year or customized CD mixes do not make you a concept store.

A concept store is more than a contemporary fashion boutique with home accessories and new brands. A concept store must possess all of the above and one more: It must be constantly reinvented and highly interactive. Allow me to clarify even further.
A concept store is a store that is in a constant state of change. By fusing together fashion and art, it provides a portal into a third dimension of creativity. It is also extremely innovative and always in motion, providing a modern shopping experience that is both conceptual and unrestrained. Lastly, the store must boast a variety of brands — it can’t be a flagship store or a single brand shop. The brands and products are only limited by one factor: their identity. Thus, they change as the identity or concept of the store evolves. The concept is the only parameter around the store’s limitless creativity.

Many of you who are already familiar with the boutique may ask: Why is LIFE being announced as a concept store when it has been open since 2003? As mentioned above, many stores fall short. It has taken many years for this boutique to mold itself into the creative space that it is today. And, it was well worth the wait.
Although, LIFE has always been welcomed with much success over the years — even expanding with the opening of a Riyadh branch in 2005 — it was still not a concept store.  It possessed the cross selling of brands and products but the identity of it was stagnate and resembled an up-scale Urban Outfitters filled with unknown European brands. This year, however,

LIFE has begun its transformation into a true concept store, by all definitions, and can be compared to our favorites: Colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and 10 Corso Como in Milan.
“We have begun re-branding the store,” reveals Yasmeen Al-Sudairy, creative director for the retail arm of ANMA Group.We realized we had slowly moved away from our original mission of being a true concept store.” As a result, they decided to step things up — with Jeremy Scott Bone heels.

LIFE is no longer a multi-brand boutique; it’s a multi-discipline creative sphere. “Conventionally, the shopping experience in Saudi Arabia is rigid and uneventful,” explains Al-Sudairy, “Through LIFE, we try to recreate a space, which exerts positive energy and provides the flexibility of self-expression; where people can hang out and participate, and not just view and buy our products.” Most concept stores abide by the “five-sense rule,” which argues that the store must be a treat for all five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. LIFE does just that, while continuing to engage its shopper in extra-curricular activities that may not directly relate to fashion, but are definitely fashionable.
“We have workshops and exhibits planned throughout the year,” reveals Reem Abbar, buyer and brand manager. “We want this to be a place of inspiration and expression for local creativity.”
For example, LIFE will be collaborating with the talented Saudi graphic designer, Hani Alireza, on a series of viral videos and Saudi artist, Mohammed Gabel, will be painting a couch for their display window.
Abbar promises to constantly refresh the brand mix by introducing new and upcoming brands, “we also are in talks of collaborating with the designers. For example, Makin Jan Ma will be doing an Abaya for us.” LIFE has been designed with flexibility and change in mind — all the features of the store are moveable, allowing the interior to transform according to the flavor of the month. “It is a place where the cool cats source the dopest garmz…LIFE digs deep to bring its customers the freshest gears,” states Abbar.

The boutiques offer a multifaceted assortment of womenswear and menswear that are contemporary and fun. The store also boasts quirky gadgets and best editors’ books. “We cater to individuals who want to flaunt their own unique style and are unafraid to express themselves — whether through their home accessories or the accessories they wear,” explains Abbar, “We want to inspire our customers to be more experimental in the way they dress; with our selection we try to encourage them to feel confident in pushing their own style boundaries.”

An exclusive and eclectic offering of both international and local designers with good street cred and an even better vision for cutting-edge designs, has catapulted LIFE past the others. “In addition to the international designers, we’re trying to do more collaborations with local artists through various projects, such as window displays and in-store installations,” explains Abbar. With its urbanesque couture pieces and nonconformist fashion sense, LIFE is making bad look really good.

We only hope that LIFE continues to grow and surprise us. And, in what sounds like an oxymoron, we hope others copy its innovative approach.
A rebirth has taken place in our country. Let us nurture it.

Article by Marriam M Mossalli – Arab News