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Adventure in Style: The North Face Beverly Hills by JGA, Inc.

Beverly Hills, California: A company well known for its high-performance gear celebrates its heritage of outdoor exploration by combining elements of exotic locales and high-tech product.

by Kristen Richards
June 17, 2002

For 35 years, The North Face has been creating innovative, high-performance, technically-advanced apparel, footwear, equipment, and accessories for serious outdoor adventurers, global trekkers, and sophisticated urbanites who have one thing in common: they seek out, invest in, use, and wear the best.


While the brand is available in 3,000 retail locations around the world, the San Leandro, California-based company has been what Sandy Wait, Vice President of Retail, calls “conservative and fiscally cautious” about rolling out stand-alone, company-owned stories – it has only eight (so far) in the U.S. “The company wants to target locations that offer high-profile, national and international brand exposure,” she says. The newest, designed by Southfield, Michigan-based JGA, Inc., opened March 1st in Beverly Hills (just a block off Rodeo Drive) – a site that certainly caters to Wait’s targeted clientele.


As The North Face always has discriminating wholesale distribution, its best-class positioning was an easy fit with the Beverly Hills location,” says JGA chairman Ken Nisch, AIA. “The company’s high-tech and high-quality standards are expected by the Beverly Hills customer base.”


The 7,500-square-foot North Beverly Drive store has created a new design standard not just for the brand, but also in outdoor gear retailing. The new prototype is an adventure in itself that imparts the company’s trademark motto: “Never Stop Exploring,” and celebrates its heritage of outdoor exploration.


An eclectic, but subtle contrast of objects, materials, and forms that provides a sense of energy is consistent with the spirit of The North Face brand. According to Wait, while existing stores focus (albeit successfully) on the high-tech aspects of the product lines, Nisch and the JGA team have found what she calls the “yin and yang” balance of contrasts between the hard/soft elements of both the products and environments they are intended for. “The hard/high-tech approach is ‘warmed’ by having added a multi-cultural component,” Wait says.


Distinctive artifacts and architectural details are key focal elements that convey a sense of cultures and places, journeys and destinations. The sense of adventure begins with the entrance that features an original, hand-carved Indonesian door, a wall of cascading water, natural stone, and a winding entry path. Inside, a large stone-like sculptural arch that spans the width of the store and varied ceiling heights lend to the sense of exploration.


Authentic objects from regions around the world where The North Face has sponsored expeditions (since 1969) are intertwined with modern elements throughout the store, balancing the technical aspects of the products with the emotional part of the journey. Display fixtures include antique trunks and cupboards topped with glass, an antique wedding chest from India, and classic Chinese doors from a nobleman’s residence and Thai Spirit Houses.


More contemporary elements include machined forms of stainless steel columns and icy-cool, rear-illuminated acrylic panels. A 12-foot equipment wall displays bold lifestyle graphics that, above the eight-foot-high divide, camouflages storage areas for sleeping bags and other gear. A testing ramp paved in a myriad of natural stones allows customers to test the grip and fit of footwear before purchasing.


Adding to the sense of contrast and texture are the floor fixtures and service counters featuring sandblasted pine trimmed with stainless steel, and hand-polished plaster perimeter merchandising panels. A maple wood curved outer shell surrounds the vertically over-scaled fitting rooms that recreate the feeling of interacting in nature, as one would encounter a crevasse. The composite concrete floor with a mottled texture is set within a grid system of dark oak timber strips. 


The world-class North Face Athlete teams and their expeditions are showcased in displays that include images from remote locations where they have pushed their limits and the gear that they used to survive. (These athletes also generate ideas for product development and test new products under the most extreme conditions – and are featured prominently on The North Face Web site.)


Sandy Wait is particularly pleased with the response to the new store from the trade: “It has helped strengthen our relationships with our wholesale accounts – many want to integrate elements of the new concept into their own in-store North Face boutiques.”


Client: The North Face, Inc. (a subsidiary of VF Corporation)

Client Team: Sandy Wait (Vice President, Retail), David Curtis (Senior Manager of Store Design & VM), James H. Thomsen (Director of Operations & Finance, Retail), Rich Marini (Director of Stores)

Design Firm: JGA, Inc.

JGA Team: Ken Nisch, AIA (Chairman), Mike Curtis (Creative Director), Arvin Stephenson (Project Manager)

Project Management: Chestnut Company  

Lighting Consultant: Lighting Management Inc.

Photography: Laszlo Regos Photography


Exterior Signage: Harmon Signs/Planet Neon

Interior Graphics: Great Big Pictures

Antiques/Furniture: C.A.I. Designs

Floors: Gammapar (wood floor strips); Custom Concrete Designs (concrete); American Olean/Virginia Tile (slate)

Paint: Benjamin Moore; Zolatone

Wall Finish: NASS Fresco Finishes

Laminates: Chemetal

Solid surface: Corian

Water Feature: Bluworld Innovations; Joel Berman: Glass Studios Ltd. (glass)

Exterior Planters: Lunaform Llc

Faux paint effects and faux arch: Greneker

Floor Fixtures: Silver Stream

Specialty Floor Fixtures: The Carlson Co., Inc.; B&N Industries

Perimeter Fixturing: Custom Woodcraft Inc.

Window Display Fixturing: LOOK


Since 1971, JGA has evolved to become one of the nation's leading retail design, brand strategy, and architectural firms. The firm’s expertise is in balancing space planning, brand identity, imaging, graphics, and merchandising. Recent award winning environmental and graphic design projects include Audi Park Avenue, Cargo Hold at Ripleys Aquarium, Dickson CyberExpress (Hong Kong), Disney, Fossil, Fred Lavery Company, General Nutrition Centers, The Museum Shop at the American Museum of Natural History, Nature's Northwest, Perfumania, The Planetarium Shop at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, Rue 21, Samsung Plaza (South Korea) and Torrid. JGA's designs have been recognized internationally and published by the industry's leading magazines including: Chain Store Age, Visual Merchandising + Store Design, Display & Design Ideas, Shopping Center World, Interior Design, Interiors and Sources, and Retail Interiors (UK).


See also:


Custom Cuddles: Pawsenclaws & Co. by JGA, Inc.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
The entrance to The North Face Beverly Hills is a vestibule highlighted by a 200-year-old, hand-carved Indonesian door and cascading water wall.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
A peek beyond the water wall reveals a faux-stone sculptural arch and a textured concrete floor set in a grid of dark oak timber.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
The faux-stone arch spans the width of the store, inviting "explorers" to enter.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
Antique trunks and tables are used as display fixtures throughout the store.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
Many display fixtures are One-of-a-kind antique pieces topped with glass.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
Authentic pieces from regions around the world where The North Face has sponsored expeditions are intertwined with modern elements.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
A pole-system footwear display is adjacent to a wall unit inspired by a Japanese bell wall exhibiting large photographic images.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
The stone-paved ramp allows shoppers to test the grip and fit of footwear.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
The mix of authentic pieces with modern elements balances the technical aspects of the product line with the emotional part of the journey.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
A 12-foot equipment wall displays bold lifestyle graphics and camouflages storage areas for gear above the eight-foot divide.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
Zones are designed to call attention to the technical aspects of exploration as well as the athletes, the places they visit, and the people they meet.

(Laszlo Regos Photography)
The North Face is building stand-alone high profile stores in unique settings, the newest just one block from Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.


© 2002