What is it that makes a product particularly covetable? Platform Creative Agency’s Cathy O’Clery explains the process of developing and creating merchandise, in collaboration with leading designers, for South Africa’s hottest cultural retail space.
No-one can resist a good museum shop. Great cultural encounters stimulate us and it is a basic human desire to take something tangible away from that experience.
However, retail is currently in decline in South Africa and much of the offering out there has become bland and generic and is merchandised in an unimaginative way. A destination shop that is truly authentic, offering well-made, meaningful designs and curated with imagination, is bound to resonate with consumers. That was the challenge when Platform Creative Agency took on the project to develop and create products for Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA. As passionate retail aficionados, we realised that everything we put in the shop had to have a reason for being there. People now spend less, but when they do they instinctively want things of substance.
The museum has provided a genuinely enriching experience, from its sensational architecture to the quality art it houses. We knew we had to create great designs suitable for all visitors, from school children and locals to art lovers and well-heeled tourists, yet to the standard that an international institute demands. Having done research on other leading museum stores around the world, we also knew we had to step beyond the obvious, creating our own contemporary African mix of art-led design, gifting, graphic design and fashion.
“One of the first things we did before the museum opened, was invite around 20 local designers to respond to and be inspired by the magnitude and majesty of the museum. We then sat with each of them, showed them our ideas, colour palettes and ethos and collaborated on designs for handbags, jewellery, ceramics, pencil cases, stationery and posters. We instantly knew what would sell well; Gillian Fuller’s beaded bracelets, for example. Inspired by the art installations and architectural features of the museum, these bracelets sold out immediately and are now set to be a staple at the shop.
We did have challenges – many people like to buy products with official branding, however, we found the pre-existing Zeitz MOCAA branding was quite complicated to apply. In the end, we developed designs around the 42 circles of the silos in the logo and went for a distinctive, warm colour palette, which played beautifully with the existing architecture of the shop – a heritage space that is not going to change.
Context, curating and setting is what ultimately sells products. On one of our many journeys through the galleries, looking for inspiration, we came across packing cases in which art is transported. Bingo! These made great frames for laying out the merchandise in carefully curated tableaux. When the shop fitting is finished, and in line with the museum as a cultural showcase, we will create unique product exhibitions throughout the year, working with leading designers and artists.
The Zeitz MOCAA shop is open during museum opening hours and can be accessed from the main front entrance without visiting the galleries.