“It’s inspired by the French Open, but not the rigidity – more so the playfulness of the sport,” Thornley said.
“The whole floor is actually a salt texture, and the tennis court lines you see along the wall and the floor are a salt texture as well, so it’s been really fun to work on. We tried to use really interesting, natural forms [in the store].”
Thornley said the collaboration between Nike and Jacquemus makes sense, as each brand has access to something the other wants: Jacquemus courts a female audience, something Nike has increasingly targeted, while Nike has a wide, global reach.
And that reach is working. When the activation in Sydney opened last week, shoppers lined up to get a peek at what the brands had done.
This isn’t the first time Incu has worked with Nike, however.
A new relationship with Nike
Last year, Incu was tasked with creating an in-store installation for Nike’s ACG line, and, taking the ‘all conditions’ aspect of the line to heart, brought nature into its Galeries store in Sydney.
“The whole idea of that line is that you can put it on and go out into nature,” Thornley said.
“So we brought the rainforest into our store, and leaned into the idea that nature is a place of healing. We teamed up with a meditation expert and created a free guided meditation that anyone who entered the space could scan a QR code and listen to in the space. That linked the idea of being in nature, and being in a good headspace.
“That was our first work with Nike, and they were really happy with it.”
Due to their success in the first collaboration, Nike reached out to Incu to design an activation for the new collection, deepening the connection between Incu and the global sports giant.
“Nike is looking to cut down their wholesale globally and they’re just working with people who are quite meaningful,” Incu CEO Douglas Low told Inside Retail. “I think Nike likes that we have a different take on things…They just want their brand partners to be the best versions of themselves.”
In May this year, Incu created an activation for the launch of Nike’s Air Max sneakers and partnered with community initiative To Give Fresh Air. In several of Incu’s stores in Sydney and Melbourne, customers were invited to drop off old sneakers which the retailer would then donate to Shoes for Planet Earth. For every pair of shoes that were donated, $5 was given to social enterprise Thread Together.
For the release of Air Max, Incu worked with Black DJ and music producer Ayebetonye who runs Irregular Fit, an arts platform for people of colour, and a beekeeper called Honey Fingers, who bases his work around bee cultures, the connection between bees and communities.
Both Nike and Incu aim to bring communities together, especially given Incu’s focus on the female shopper: something that is increasingly high on the agenda for many retailers lately.
“People have obviously worked off of customer personas for a long time, and that’s kind of put women in a box,” Thornley said.
“What we’ve found is that women get up and decide who they want to be each day. That’s the beauty of Incu: she can come in and dress like the persona we’d call the ‘ruler’, which would be like a ‘boss woman’. But the next day, she might come in and want to be an ‘expressive’ and wear a colourful, printed dress.
“In our stores, women really get an opportunity to be whoever they want when they’re actually shopping, rather than just going to a brand serving the one customer archetype.”
Doing things differently
Beyond the collaboration with Nike and Jacquemus, Incu has also begun working closely with overseas brands to design and operate their Australian stores and e-commerce ventures. Currently, Incu works with two brands in this way — cult New York denim Rag and Bone and A.P.C.
“Some of the stores do operate quite differently, some serve a direct-to-consumer customer versus a multi-customer. The brands don’t necessarily sell to the same person,” said Thornley.
“It’s interesting, and any learnings that we make on our stores can be applied to their stores as well.”
Earlier this year, Incu brought the interactive Rag & Bone ‘Newstand’ activation to its Chadstone store in Melbourne for four weeks, complete with a branded flower cart with fresh blooms, fresh cookies, a custom mural from a local artist, fresh coffee and gourmet cookies. The New York denim brand had previously launched the Newstand activation in several of its stores in the US last year.
Low expects Incu to experiment with similar activations and pop-ups in the future. The new 526-square-metre store in Chadstone has been created as a retail destination, with enough space and flexibility to build installations for its various brand partners.
“At the beginning of Covid, we’d probably taken the foot off the accelerator a little bit. It was getting a bit transactional leading into Covid, it just wasn’t what we’d always wanted. We always wanted the business to be interesting and inspirational for customers,” said Low.
“If you can create a great customer experience, whether or not you can get a return on it in sales in that period, you’ll be top of mind. It’s also about challenging us and doing interesting things.”