Walk into the Bolon Eyewear store in Shanghai, China, and you could be forgiven for momentarily thinking you’d entered an installation at a contemporary art museum. Showcased in this small gem of a store (the space is barely more than 1,000 square feet), are glowing walls showcasing products set inside a sculptural, three-dimensional grid of light, shadow, and angular form. Dozens of clean white shelves, lit from behind and above, contain the retailer’s line of eyeglasses, each floating on its own mini stage. “The repetition of so many individual glasses creates this spectacular and surreal visual effect,” says Gerd Pfarré of Munich’s Pfarré Lighting Design.
Pfarré collaborated with Ippolito Fleitz Group (IFG), an interiors firm based in Stuttgart, Germany, to design the lighting for this, the first retail store for Bolon Eyewear, China’s largest eyewear manufacturer and the third largest sunglasses brand in the world. With this inaugural boutique, the client’s goal was to create an elegant interior reflective of its recent branding campaign featuring French actress Sophie Marceau. IFG used a sophisticated palette of materials—white marble floors and gold-toned ceilings—to infuse the space with light, elevate the product, and make the interiors glow.
The interior designers conceived the idea for the display wall, which uses horizontal and vertical shelves and dubbed them “display fins,” and they consulted Pfarré on how to light it. “They had the initial idea to have [the horizontal shelves] as an illuminated panel,” Pfarré says. “We came on board and said that the illuminated panel is nice, but if we had the vertical fin above, we should also integrate another LED there to give the eyewear light from above.”
At first, the panels were designed with glowing edges, but Pfarré and his team saw that it wasn’t working to show off the eyewear, so they moved the band of horizontal light to the back. They also needed to highlight the product from above, and help it shine without creating glare or shadow. Creating the effect took months of design and testing. Pfarré flew to China to work with the manufacturers on the shelf design. They built a one-to-one mock-up and tried LEDs against a variety of shelving material. “They had several panels and we tested glass and samples using a translucent foil,” he says. “We finally said, ‘Just paint it in a solid white so that there is no light coming through.’ ”
Finding the right color temperature was critical to achieving the correct balance between the light levels throughout the rest of the store and the display of the glasses. “Generally the taste in China is for [a] cooler color temperature, especially in jewelry and retail,” Pfarré says. “In the end we came up with 4000K for the entire store, which is rather warm.” Pfarré felt this temperature would work best for both the eyeglasses as well as the warm reflection generated by the gold-hued ceiling.
To illustrate to the manufacturers exactly how he wanted the eyeglasses lit was a very hands-on process. Pfarré would place a pair of glasses on a shelf as a test and then adjust the light source until the correct result was achieved. “I said, ‘OK, this oval projection [from above] is not exactly what we are looking for, but could you please change it like this and that?’ ”
The final result is a horizontal display lit by a 4W LED strip hidden behind the rear panel edge. The three visible edges are coated in a solid, high-opacity white paint. A vertical fin above uses a custom-designed 3W LED spot with a lens with an oval beam spread to further emphasize the product.
Key to achieving the desired visual effect in the store was ensuring that no light from the ceiling hit the vertical surfaces. “If we touched the walls with downlight, we would have had a mish-mash of shadow and I wanted to prevent that,” he says.
Instead, 4000K LED adjustable downlights aim straight down to the floor, creating an evenly distributed glow on the white marble, which is then reflected on the gold ceiling. In the free-standing vitrines, the designers used off-the-shelf lightpads. “In China, you can easily buy these in the stores,” Pfarré says. They selected an evenly distributed 4000K at approximately 200W per square meter. Adjustable 18W, 4000K downlights with black anti-glare rings and an 8-degree beam spread illuminate the freestanding vitrines from above. The wall vitrines use the same off-the-shelf lightpads, except with a 6W version, and are paired with 4000K downlights.
Completed in May 2015, Pfarré says the final result exceeded expectation. “There is a moment of surprise when you have the feeling that you are on the right track. The mock-up is great. The idea, you think, is good. It’s feasible. The people who are building it are professionals. We knew the display would offer a spectacular effect, but we were surprised walking in the first time,” he says. “It had an incredible wow effect. [The display fins] seem so simple, but simple things, as you know, require a lot of work.” •
Project: Bolon Eyewear, Shanghai • Client: Xiamen Artgri Optical Co. • Lighting Designer: Pfarré Lighting Design, Munich • Interior Designer: Ippolito Fleitz Group, Stuttgart, Germany • Photographer: Shuhe Architectural Photography, Beijing • Project Size: 97 square meters (1,044 square feet) • Project and Lighting Costs: Withheld • Code Compliance: Not Applicable • Watts per Square Meter: 27W • Lighting Manufacturers: Custom-made luminaires provided by Fushida