This week we are shining a spotlight on two incredible talents in the realm of experiential design, who were fundamental in designing our Westbourne Grove Flagship Store in Notting Hill; Jude Whyte and Rhian Pownceby.

This dynamic design-duo have 30+ years of combined experience in the field of retail and experiential design with a portfolio amassing clients such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Selfridges, Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith and Anya Hindmarch, as well as us here at PAOLITA.

Read below for our exclusive interview with these leaders in luxury spatial design.

MEET JUDE WHYTE

Goldsmith’s Design BA Alumni Jude Whyte had a “lightbulb moment” in her final year when she realised there was a career to be made by marrying her passion of design and retail together. Today, Jude holds the title of ‘Creative Operations Director’ at Charlotte Tilbury and has worked with some of the fashion industry’s top stakeholders including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Luxury Department Store Selfridges. All the while working on her own freelance projects with clients ranging from Boots, Geometry, Wonderland, Rita Ora and Homemilk, to us here at Paolita.

judewhyte.com

@jude_whyte_creative

'The Jude Look'

'The Jude Look'

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Mint Fonda Shirt

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Mint Fonda Shirt

£45.00 £145.00

MEET RHIAN POWNCEBY

Self confessed “history geek”, Rhian Pownceby, had a slightly different journey into the retail design sector, having studied for her BA in History at Manchester Metropolitan University. However, her part time job working on the visual team at Topshop from age 16  fed a love for creating, and visuals. As her passion for retail design grew, the designer worked her way up the corporate ladder in impressive positions at brands such as Paul Smith, Ralph Lauren and Anya Hindmarch spanning 15 years. Today, Rhian has her own creative consultancy company, Rhian Pownceby Design founded in 2019, which specialises in tailor made interiors for private homes, developers and retail stores & experiences.

rhianpowncebydesign.com

@rhianpowncebydesign

'The Rhian Look'

'The Rhian Look'

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Melia Jagger Boiler Suit

£118.50 £395.00

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Melia Jagger Boiler Suit

£118.50 £395.00

During the design and ideation process, the pair made sure to scrutinise every detail of the store to ensure a seamless PAOLITA user journey, representative of our values as a brand. See above one of the early mood boards establishing our Notting Hill store’s aesthetic as to align with our PAOLITA ethos.

The Process

Throughout the iterative stages, the pair frequently made use of mock-ups in order to visualise the final concept and capture the spirit of the PAOLITA consumer in a space truly representative of our customer, and their needs. The pairs’ careful and rigorous consideration of colour scheme, materials and lighting was paramount to achieving a refined and luxurious finish.

The Result?

A space that truly captures the essence of PAOLITA. Not just as a brand, but as a concept that is carefully curated to embrace our customers’ every need. A space that captures the tranquillity that is so rare to find in a city like London. One that welcomes all women (and non-women alike), making a space to empower your bodies, capture your imagination and enlighten your spirit.

The Notting Hill flagship store also carries a range of brands that also reflect our core values with craftsmanship, sustainability and giving back at their core.

Paolita is also a platform for art and design and most recently invited global artist Ioanna Pantazopoulou to take up a residency in the Paolita store. Over three months Pantazopoulou created a 3d installation titled “Undomesticated” that currently spans across the stores  primary windows.

We couldn’t thank Jude and Rhian enough for their support to materialise this vision of ours.

Find the exclusive interview below.

  1. You both have a wealth of experience and have worked with some of the big names in the fashion industry. Can you tell us a little more about you backgrounds and some of your career highlights to date?

 Rhian – We met working together on the Creative team at Anya Hindmarch which was the beginning of an amazing working collaboration and friendship. We both have significant and broad experience in the fashion industry working across all areas of creative direction and design for brands such as Ralph Lauren, Selfridges, Paul Smith and architectural firms such as Brinkworth.

A couple of career highlights for me has been working on some amazing fashion show events at locations such as the Beaux Arts In Paris, Highclere House (the home of Downton Abby) as well as working on the creative direction for the hospitality spaces at Wimbledon, The Golf Open and Olympic Games!

Jude – Some favourite projects for me: designing the Selfridges centenary exhibition, collaborating with Chanel on their travelling fine jewellery exhibition. Also, working with Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama on a store take over at Selfridges, including a concept space and all windows.

  1. What initially inspired you both to pursue this line of work?

Rhian – I actually studied History at University as I am a bit of a history geek and at that point wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I began working part time on the visual team at Topshop at 16 and this is where my love for creating, and visuals began. I then worked my way up through different visual and creative positions at Paul Smith, Ralph Lauren and Anya Hindmarch which took me all over the world and decided, after having my baby, that it was the time to start my own interior design and creative consultancy company and work in collaboration with other creatives like Jude when the projects were right. I have always enjoyed creating spaces that people feel happy in whether that is a home, store or office- every project that I do inspires me on to the next.

Jude – I studied design at Goldsmiths and in my final year pulled my love for design and retail together, in a huge light bulb moment realising that retail design could be a career! I started working at Brinkworth straight after uni, working on retail and residential interiors projects – which was a great start. Then more than a decade in creative roles at Selfridges which gave me a wealth of amazing creative opportunities, from there to Anya – after which my freelance chapter began. I now work across interiors and experiential projects.

  1. Working together can be challenging, especially when you are also friends. Can you tell us what makes your dynamic work? 

Rhian – Being close friends makes the communication very open and honest- we are not scared to play to our strengths and although we have worked in similar roles, we also have some diverse skills that complement each other- we bring slightly different things to the table that work together well. We have also worked alongside each other for a long time in busy, stressful environments and so we know where and when we need to support one another.

Jude – Everything Rhian said!

  1. In a time where there are so many restrictions surrounding the concept of physical spaces, what do you think makes a retail space really special? 

Rhian – I believe that customers expect an awful lot from a store these days- in the age of online shopping visiting a store is an experience, a treat for the senses and we consider this in a 360-degree way- sound, sight, smell and touch are all so important in setting the scene and creating the mood. Giving your customers a bit of the unexpected (such as an exciting colour palette, using unusual materials, art installations and collaborations etc) is really important. Customers need to feel a sense of luxury and beauty but not so much that they feel as though they are in a museum- they need to feel relaxed enough to touch and explore the product and getting this mix right is what makes a space special.

Jude – Experience is everything – your visual and physical experience – to be surprised – get more than you expected from a store is how to stand out. As Rhian says- going to the store is a treat now, and with all the touch points you have with a brand online and on social – coming to the store is like coming to a brands home. The space needs to ooze the personality of the brand.

  1. Leading on from the last question, what have you found most challenging about spatial design in a pandemic, particularly when the logistics of spaces have changed, from mask wearing to condemned touching, and social distancing? 

Rhian – From a practical perspective having to do all your research for materials, fabrics and colours online is tough and takes extra time- samples need to be ordered, you wait for them to arrive etc versus popping into a store/ showroom and physically being able to decide there and then. Also, when designing as a duo we were only able to work together over zoom and a million text messages! That being said, it made us work smarter and it was definitely a useful learning curve for us.

Then there are the store challenges to consider- in these changing times we had to really think about the practicalities of having a designated space for hand sanitizer by the door, a clear route for customers to follow in order to comply with social distancing, creating space so everyone felt comfortable as well as making sure there were enough fixtures and units to fit all the product on the shop floor and storage! We find this kind of challenge exciting- something new to consider and work through and we did this by designing bespoke fixtures that looked amazing and had multiple functions!

Jude – Rhian has captured it all here!

  1. Where do you find your inspiration from? 

Rhian – Inspiration can be found in anything! (I learnt this from working with Paul Smith as this is his mantra and totally true- you just have to open your eyes and be present to see it)!

Jude – Agree with Rhian again! But nature, art, travel, are right up there. I find discovering new materials exciting and often inspire me or lead me to a certain design.

  1. We are living in a time of such rapid technological advances— What excites you about the future of spatial design? 

Rhian – All the technology allows us to keep pushing the boundaries of what is offered and to us that is very exciting. We always like to try and look at a space slightly differently, design out of the mould, something unique. As I touched on earlier technology allows us to think about the space in a 360 degree way- taking hold of all the senses and creating an experience, not just a place to buy.

Jude – Technology allows us to visualise ideas so rapidly now. In the 20 years I’ve been in design the programmes have changed so much and are now so much smarter and user friendly.

  1. What do you think is unique/ special about an audience’s relationship to spacial design as opposed to other 2D creative outlets? 

Rhian – It allows them to become fully immersed in a space using all the senses rather than just one. To me you do not get the same rush from sitting at a computer and inputting your card details, waiting days for something to arrive then you do from receiving excellent customer service in a beautiful space and walking away with something there and then. Space design allows the audience to be part of something rather than looking in from the outside.

Jude – I Agree!

  1. What makes a great space?

Rhian – Adding in a bit of something unexpected, pushing the space to do more and work harder than you think it should.

Jude – Magic! Secret touches, unexpected details, beautiful considered details that aid your experience and use of a space.

 

  1. Have there been any stand out experiential spaces from the past year that you can think of? 

Rhian – I think the art industry has offered us some amazing immersive experimental spaces recently- from The Van Gogh exhibition to Yoyoi Kusama infinity mirrors to the Light Shows- all of these are encouraging the viewer to see things in a complete 3D way rather than looking at a flat image. It brings the art to life and evokes feelings, this is what inspires us when we think about space design.

Jude – I’ve loved seeing how the creative industry have pivoted to online experiences this year, the pandemic meant everyone had to think differently – online consultations, masterclasses and events have been amazing.

  1. Where in London right now is really worth a visit? 

Rhian – After the year we have had just to be out and about again and looking at things with a fresh perspective and eyes is just amazing. I used to spend every day of my life in central London working opposite the Royal Academy and you lose sight of the beautiful city you live in. I would say supporting the arts and getting back out to galleries such as the V&A, RA and Tate is super important right now, these institutions and beautiful spaces have suffered massively and need our support to get back on their feet. At the same time you forget what these creative outlets offer us in return and I for one have truly missed them. Following on from this I would also say that getting out into London’s beautiful open spaces is a must right now- whether it’s sailing in a swan boat in Hyde Park to taking a dip in the ladies pool on Hampstead Heath, remembering all the amazing things about our city right now is important.

Jude – Love Rhian’s answer here, and would only add supporting your local and small businesses – must continue!

  1. As we finally begin to emerge out of the restrictions of the pandemic, what is next for both of you?

Rhian – I have been lucky enough to work during the pandemic, turning some of my attention to online designing as well as my turn key service- this includes supporting clients with a design, layout options, schedules etc without actually having to be on site to implement. Although this has been great I am excited to get out there again and get my hands dirty! I have a number of residential, commercial and retail projects in the pipe line which are all super exciting! I am focussing on sustainable living and how to bring that ethos into my designs and also launching an online shop with likeminded partners on my website to complement this. And of course a holiday!

Jude – Ah a holiday… I hope so. I’ve been working with beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury for the past months at their in-house creative agency. Here we work on all of their content from tv commercials to campaign shoots and online master classes. It’s been a fascinating experience.

Words by Claudia Brinkworth