The 'most interesting store in the world' has a show with 5 actors, a gold-encrusted elevator, and a secret room behind a library - here's what it's like to go
- Showfields is a game-changer in brick-and-mortar retail. The store specializes in taking lesser-known direct-to-consumer brands into the physical retail sector in its four-story, 14,000 square-foot space in Manhattan.
- The House of Showfields is the store's newest installation, a 30-minute sensory theater production that gives customers a chance to immerse themselves in the store's featured brands.
- We went to see what it looks like when retail meets theater in the first-of-its-kind immersive shopping experience, and how stores can adapt the Showfields model to survive the retail apocalypse.
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Online shopping might be the future of retail, but anyone who says that brick-and-mortar retail can't be creative has likely never visited Showfields.
The self-proclaimed "most interesting store in the world" has already lived up to its name in its general store space, with its whimsical showrooms, eye-popping displays, and clever methods of bringing lesser-known direct-to-consumer brands to life. It's here that a new type of store experience has found life, even in the depths of the retail apocalypse.
"I don't think retail is dead," said Katie Hunt, Showfields' chief revenue officer and co-founder. "I think retail needed to evolve."
It is this forward-thinking mindset that led Hunt and co-founder Tal Zvi Nathanel to co-create Showfields' latest concept, House of Showfields.
The idea is simple: a curated, immersive theater experience that lets customers interact with products before they buy them. Think an escape room meets an Instagram-friendly temporary pop-up installation.
Add in a boatload of flashy colors and original sculptures and you get the idea. The "house" in question supposedly belongs to Miss Showfields - a character in the show that makes an appearance - and is filled with twists and turns.
The show, which opened on July 20 and runs through September 3, has already seen success. Showfields racked up 10,000 reservations booked in the first few days. That number has since increased to almost 40,000. Admission is free, but reservations are required.
"We've always believed, and our thesis has always been, that content drives commerce," Hunt said.
The tour culminates in the Showfields Lab, where customers can purchase the products they smelled, touched, saw, and tasted on their journey through the house. The idea is that after experiencing the products, customers are more likely to feel ready to purchase them.
We went to see for ourselves what the first-ever retail theater experience was like. What we saw made it clear that Showfields is revolutionizing the concept of brick-and-mortar shopping.
We headed to Showfields on Bond Street in Manhattan's Noho neighborhood.
The first floor was filled with various displays for different online brands that Showfields houses. But we were here for the new exhibition that would start on the third floor. At around 11 am, people were lining up for the show.
A sign on the first floor advertised what we were about to experience and we started to feel the excitement.
We were led into an elevator completely covered in gold material. The elevator was actually an art installation from Slytex Studios and the piece that we were standing in was called Gold Capsule.
We made it to the third floor, where there were some items for sale. Customers were encouraged to browse through the different "fields" of brands here before they entered the House of Showfields.
We followed this corridor of arches to the end of the floor but found that we kept getting distracted by the different installations for the brands along the way, which included underwear, handbags, and other accessories.
Most notably, we found a massive pile of pillows for shoppers to dive into. Hunt said this area is a great place for taking investor meetings.
At the end of the hall, we found ourselves in the middle of what seemed like a regular sitting room that was advertising Book of the Month, a book subscription program that connects readers with emerging authors.
Nearby, we found some delicious-looking Rhubarb and Strawberry Gin, courtesy of Boodles.
We started to wonder where we would go from here because it seemed like a dead end. Suddenly, our guide pushed open a bookshelf and exposed a secret room.
This marked the true start of the House of Showfields. The room was decked out in a shimmery metallic fabric and a neon sign that made us feel like we were about to experience something extraordinary.
Below the sign, there was an entrance to the house via a tunnel slide. So down the rabbit hole we went ...
... only to emerge in an entirely different world. The room was designed to look like a forest, complete with trees and different plants.
We were greeted by the first actress in the show, a scientist who was very excited to see us.
We turned into the first stop on the tour and found ourselves in the middle of a tiny hotel room. This was Ethos, a type of pop-up hotel meant for business travelers.
Next, we made our way into the actual house section of the tour and we were blown away at the design. The dazzling space was flooded with light and color.
We started in the living room section of the house, where we learned about Meural, a smart frame that can display over 30,000 works of art and can be controlled with hand gestures or voice command.
Next stop, the kitchen. There were different treats for passersby to nibble on, as well as some small drink samples to sip.
There was also a display for Skura, a sponge that has claims to breed fewer bacteria than a regular cellulose sponge.
Every room in the house was designed by a different artist that Showfields hired. "It's not that we're interesting," said Hunt about the appeal of Showfields. "It's that we become a stage and a platform for those that are creating the most interesting work in the world."
All of the rooms were stunning, but our favorite room was by far the bathroom. The structures protruding from the wall looked like a cross between octopus tentacles and drops of melting ice cream.
The toilet seemed to be in need of unclogging, but the scene made for an interesting work of art.
We tested out some Nuria exfoliating scrub by the sink and could not believe how quickly it worked.
At the center of the house, there were multiple screens that showed a video feed of the different areas of the house.
The house tour ended in the quarters of Miss Amelia Showfields herself — or rather, an actress portraying her. When we complimented the colors in her house, she responded with what must have been her motto: "I don't believe in living or creating in just black and white."
That much was clear by the decor in her room alone.
She also invited us to try on her clothes that were hanging on the racks in her room.
Our last stop of the show was the Showfields lab. Similar to a gift shop at the end of an attraction, this was where customers had the chance to purchase and learn more about the brands they just interacted with.
It was fun to get to see the items we had just experienced in the house. We immediately recognized the Skura sponge from the kitchen ...
... as well as the exfoliating cream we tried in the bathroom.
We also found some products we hadn't noticed in the house, like this bamboo toilet paper decked out in swanky wrapping paper ...
... and these modern acupuncture products from WTHN.
We even got to meet Javi Park, the artist who designed the gold elevator we took a ride in earlier. He showed us a phone case on display that had a similar design on the back.
Overall, our experience at House of Showfields was extraordinary. We left the store convinced that "retail theatre" should be the next best thing to hit the shopping experience.
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