I visited Showfields and saw why it lives up to its self-proclaimed title of 'the most interesting store in the world'
Bethany Biron/Business Insider
- Showfields is reimagining how shoppers interact with direct-to-consumer brands by taking online-only brands offline and into a four-story, 14,000 square-foot brick-and-mortar retail space.
- The store opened in New York City in March after receiving $9 million in initial seed funding and continues to expand. In June, it opened its four-floor co-working space, which is free to the public.
- I visited Showfields to see what it's like to shop at a massive store dedicated exclusively to lesser-known DTC brands, and it lived up to the hype.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
While showing me the newly open top level of Showfields - a sprawling four-story retail concept in New York City that officially opened its doors in March - co-founder and chief revenue officer Katie Hunt assures me "retail is not dead, it just needs to evolve."
Nearly every inch of the 14,000 square-foot space, which features an assortment of direct-to-consumer and online-only brands, serves as a testament to a new age in experiential retail. The brainchild of Tal Zvi Nathanel, Showfields succeeded in raising $9 million in initial seed funding and made its official debut after two years of carefully selecting brand partners and renovating the space.
For Nathanel, Showfields felt like a natural extension of his professional background - he spent the first half of his career working on physical experiences as an event planner and art director in Israel before moving to the US to develop mobile payment solutions. Over time, he said he began to spot an opportunity in the retail market to merge physical and digital in a way that better appeals to consumers.
See more: Direct-to-consumer brands that built their businesses without traditional advertising are now embracing it in key ways to fuel growth
Inspired partially by his mother, who was a professional window dresser, Nathanel set out to develop an interactive store concept that features fledgling direct-to-consumer brands in a brick-and-mortar space. "I've always been attracted to the art of visual merchandising and how magical it is that you can stand in front of a window and feel something and the way visuals correlate to that experience," he said.
The pop-up shop concept, of course, isn't anything particularly novel - if you walk a block or two in any direction from Showfields, you'll run smack into the pioneers of this movement like Casper, Away, Allbirds, and Glossier. However, Showfields dazzles with its sheer size, which has continued to grow since it opened in March. In June, Showfields opened up a free co-working space called The Loft and its adjacent rooftop garden, which it recently started renting out for event space.
Hunt, who was formerly the third employee at Warby Parker, said Showfields sets itself apart by serving as a platform for lesser known e-commerce brands that might not have the resources to move into physical retail. The goal is to demonstrate the power of taking an online company offline, to both brands and shoppers.
"Warby has almost a 100 stores now and it's been very successful, but there aren't a lot of young brands who get the opportunity to touch retail and see how great it can be," she said.
I visited Showfields to see if it lives up to its claims of being "the most interesting store in the world." Here's what I found.
Showfields is located on Bond Street in Manhattan's Noho neighborhood and takes up the majority of a full New York City block.
Out front, there's a sign with the Showfields tagline "The most interesting store in the world."
Once inside, I felt like I had been transported to a museum made for millennials. Illuminated art lines the walls and the air is lightly perfumed.
The first floor of Showfields is dedicated to wellness and includes a wide array of emerging direct-to-consumer brands, including Gem, a vitamin company for women.
The next room I visited was dedicated to Nuria, a vegan, all-natural beauty company. The flower ceiling is an especially popular Instagram spot, Hunt told me, as I tested the Defend Gentle Exfoliater.
In the PureWow section, I found a curated selection of products from the digital media company.
The collection mostly consisted of beauty products from up-and-coming brands like Peace Out, Captain Blankenship, and Esker, among others.
Showfields includes innovative technology like Tap, a device for keyboard-less typing, as well as stations to test it out.
For dog-lovers, Showfields has a room devoted to The Farmer's Dog, a company that makes all-natural dog food.
After sitting on this couch with a Gravity weighted-blanket atop me, I was so comfortable I could barely move and was extremely tempted to purchase one until I saw the price tag — $349.
In an adjacent room, I become acquainted with Eight Sleep, a company trying to give Casper a run for its money with a temperature controlled mattress that adjusts to your body and sleep patterns.
Perhaps the most recognizable brand at Showfields is Quip, the electronic toothbrush company that advertises everywhere from podcasts to subway trains.
Even the quirky bathroom is designed for Instagram.
It also features a display for No. 2, a playfully named sustainable toilet paper company.
Next, I hit the elevator to see the remaining floors. Hunt said the interior was designed using metallic origami paper to "feel like you're inside of a giant chocolate bar," evocative of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.
Following Hunt's recommendation, I visited the third floor before the second, which is dedicated to style and design. (Keep reading to find out why!)
The space had a few odes to New York City, like the iconic hot dog stand.
It also had some unique installations like this shopping cart display filled with Louis Vuitton bags available for purchase.
The third floor is also home to clothing retailers like Saint James, known for its striped shirts.
Across from Saint James, you can get an onsite ear piercing at Stone & Strand, or what Hunt called "the adult version of Claire's, but with real diamonds."
The "Shop now, pay later" sign is for a room devoted to a joint partnership with the payment services provider Klarna and Daniel Wellington watches.
Showfields even has a space for the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which features a rotating selection of designers selected by the group itself.
At first glance, the final room on the third floor looked like it was home to a series of art installations, including this pile of spray-painted computers.
And this bag of inspirational pillows.
Then we learned the computer display was actually a SLIDE that takes you down to the second floor, like real-life Chutes and Ladders!
Once I successfully made it down the slide without accidentally flashing anyone in my dress, I arrived on the second floor. I immediately got some major Beetlejuice vibes.
The second floor is dedicated to home goods and decor. I particularly enjoyed playing around on the Meural "smart frame," which allows you to swipe your fingers in the air to explore more than 30,000 pieces of artwork and display them in your home.
The Mother Dirt room was especially elaborate, and designed to promote the brand's focus on "personal care products that restore & maintain the delicate balance of the skin biome."
In The Lab, you can shop the favorite items of the employees at Showfields. It's basically a curated store within a curated store.
However, there were a few special items here that you can't find elsewhere in the store, like these skateboards.
Lastly, we hopped back on the elevator to visit the newly opened fourth floor, called The Loft. Though space is fairly limited, this area also serves as a public co-working space, open to anyone at no cost.
The Loft gets a lot of natural light.
It also has a television equipped with movies and various books that visitors can borrow while in The Loft.
Perhaps one of The Loft's most interesting features is this state-of-the-art Monogram pizza oven, where users can select the style of pizza they'd like using a digital screen.
The rooftop garden just opened this week, and Showfields has started renting out the space to vendors.
As I was leaving I stopped by the cafe, where Abercrombie & Fitch was giving away tons of free food and snacks in honor of New York City's Pride Celebration.
They also had a few items available for purchase.
As I left, I couldn't help but be impressed.
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