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Interview with LUX – Emotional situations

Interview with LUX – Emotional situations

Lighting designer and founder of Baseline Lighting Design Studio, French entrepreneur Boris Duhamel works mainly in the luxury retail sector. In a booming Asian market, store openings are numerous. He talks to LUX about the specificities of this geographical location and the approach of Baseline, a bridge between Europe and Asia.

LUX: What is your vision of lighting design and more especially in the retail sector?

Boris Duhamel: Light is one of the five senses, vision. I like to say it’s music for the eyes. The lighting designer has the task of composing a melodious set. There must be harmony between the client, the architect, and the lighting designer for that to happen. In retail, the goal is to sell more and to give a level of perception of the value to the brand. If the lighting is well implemented, it will put customers in an emotional situation and they will remain in front of a product or display for a little longer. And if there is consistency in a set of shops, it creates consistency for the brand. Therefore, retailers have integrated into the development of their architectural concepts the need to call on a lighting designer. It generates more sales but also to keep consistency in their shops worldwide, creating a strong brand identity.

Are customer perceptions and expectations the same in Europe as in Asia?

For store lighting, the perception changes according to the geographical areas. It is cultural in my opinion. In Europe, we will appreciate warmer, subdued lighting. Whereas in Asia, there is a desire and a need for higher lighting levels expressed by contractors and customers to have more intense light.

For the same brand, the treatment will therefore not be the same between Europe and Asia?

In this case, luxury brands tend to standardize and harmonize lighting levels and light colors in all their stores. They create a concept that they will then deploy to obtain this desired consistency. It is possible for these brands, particularly in cosmetics or jewelry, that there are adaptations that consider the expectations of end customers in stores. Some of these adaptations are necessary because of normative constraints. In China, the lighting standard is CCC; in Europe, CE; in the United States, UL; in Korea, KC, and so forth. All these different standards call for manufacturers to obtain certifications by conducting external laboratory tests, which has a significant cost. As a result, a luminaire that can be prescribed in Europe cannot be prescribed in Asia because of normative barriers. This represents an additional cost for specifiers because the work is more important for the designers, but it is necessary to fit into their specifications. Do they agree to pay this additional cost? Some brands release a budget to have a local solution in their Asia specifications. With some, we define a list of evaluated products, allowing them to have a source in Asia while maintaining consistency worldwide.

In Shanghai: One of the assets of Baseline is the integration of engineering skills, allowing it to design monumental and custom-made luminaires. In the new Louis Vuitton store in Shanghai, a 6 x 9-meter-high chandelier adorns the staircase. It is made up of 700 glass tubes of varying lengths, the cut of which reveals the brand's emblem, and the rainbow effect evokes its colors. Baseline worked on the mechanical design, electronic integration, and site monitoring for the realization of this work of art, hand in hand with the suppliers for the components of the luminaires.
What are the specifics of ordering in Asia?

In Asia, projects’ time is short because the cost of rental per square meter is extremely high. From the moment a contract is signed, the time clock starts running to ensure the store opens as quickly as possible. The lead time depends on the brands’ range. For luxury and hyper-luxury retail, it takes 3 to 6 months from the design to the opening, and for the premium brands, 2 to 3 weeks. For this to work, we must bring all the trades together and consolidate the plans, considering the short construction time. This leaves little room for error or hesitation because once it is confirmed, we leave little time for suppliers.

The localization of sourcing is therefore very important to stick to this short time and to integrate an environmental dimension into the project’s approach?

Today, Asia seems to be the retail cash cow (in proportion, when a brand opens one or two stores in Europe, it opens ten in Asia). All the brands, in particular those of LVMH, which take a strong position on environmental issues seek to source construction materials and lighting locally. This responds both to the issue of local standardization and to an environmental objective by limiting the circulation of goods, saving on transport, and reducing CO2 emissions.

In Singapore: For the lighting of this Parfums Christian Dior boutique, Baseline has followed and applied the Life in Store environmental standards defined by LVMH. With a strict selection of luminaires, the 143 m2 surface is illuminated considering the cosmetic layout, the furniture, but also sustainable requirements. In collaboration with Romain Paul, Regional Retail Design & Visual Merchandising Director, Baseline carried out three lighting studies aimed at reducing electricity consumption. It is divided by two, without ever compromising the lighting result.
How does Baseline studio participate in this evolution toward sustainable design?

It has been two years since we integrated a sustainable approach into all our designs. All our designers are LEED certified. We offer our customers to treat projects with environmental criteria to reduce consumption. In addition, we work closely with LVMH as evangelists of a sustainable approach to store construction. We integrate the recommendations of their lighting department as far upstream as possible. We also coach clients to match their specifications and meet the lighting objectives of reducing CO2 emissions and energy savings. For any European retailer, brand, or architect, we are a relay in Asia to guarantee their level of service. This contributes to the sustainable approach since it avoids long travel, accommodation costs, and communication problems.

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