One of the more phenomenal retail experiences of late was the Uniqlo store in SOHO the other week. The delight of shopping in another world and retail theater is taken to a whole new level. The the designs of the products themselves are stunning. What is stunning about such retail experiences is how great they are doing in terms of sales.
They haven't just spent huge on environment but have delivered with good design and good service. Apple stores are another example. The products aren't always flawless but one's tolerance for a bit of imperfection is much higher when the entire experience is fun.
And the fun doesn't stop in store. The online experience though different carries the same light hearted sensibility. Was delighted to see it take best of show last night at the One Show Interactive awards for their website. Great example of global thinking both in terms of markets/consumers and in terms of extensions - see the little localize widgety doodad below for my own Vancouver version of the site.
On one hand looking at the work it doesn't drip with over thought meaning but when you read the brief it still had a strategy (aka plan.) It tips the questions, when it comes to fashion does it have to have meaning? Can it not just have a sensibility and style that can evolve with it's target and culture.
As a counter comparison, look at the Gap. There was a time when they could do no wrong and were the best designed and most delightful shopping environment in the local dreary mall. But they had deep meaning, more than just clothes they were a new way of looking at life. They were the beacon of corporate casual, having a little bit of personal style. To the point of conformity and they never had a chance to evolve out of their angle and stores while better today still aren't much different than in 1993.
Even though I didn't buy anything, I hope one comes to my town soon. H&M is dull as bricks by comparision.