Renovating an iconic department store: Wilkes Bashford
Barry Bourbon in Brand, Retail, Retail, San Francisco

On Nov 3, a VIP event was held to announce Wilkes Bashford’s top-to-bottom renovation. The party, held at the Union Square store, was set with mannequins wearing the stylish threads sold at Wilkes Bashford. Renderings gave party guests a sneak peak at the new design.

As designers, we’re constantly challenged to renew, refresh and innovate. But how do you achieve newness and modernity without compromising customer expectations and disrupting brand loyalty? That’s the challenge our San Francisco design team faced when we partnered with San Francisco’s iconic department store, Wilkes Bashford.

For decades, the most discriminating of San Francisco’s shoppers have viewed Wilkes Bashford as the city’s quintessential source for style and fashion. When Gensler’s San Francisco retail design studio was approached to help redesign the upscale men’s and women’s specialty clothing store, we immediately knew it needed to be something special. It needed to match the exceptional shopping experience the store had provided for decades; to create a more contemporary feel that would resonate with both new and established customers; and at the same time, tap into the retailer’s unique place in San Francisco culture and history.

With most of the design team from San Francisco, we welcomed the challenge. The resulting design creates a strong emotional connection to the store’s illustrious history while bringing about a fresher, more contemporary look and feel that fully showcases all Wilkes Bashford has to offer.

On November 3, Jeff Henry and I joined our client in hosting a VIP event to reveal exciting new details about the top-to-bottom renovation in San Francisco’s historic Union Square shopping district. The store management, VIPs, media, and loyal customers attended the event.


Based on a townhouse theme, the new design features a grand staircase on the first floor. A stylish penthouse will be added to the seventh floor complete with a made-to-measure bar and lounge area with leather club chairs, fireplace, and full bar. On the floors in between, each level will present shoppers with a distinct experience, using subtle color palette changes to evoke the floor’s theme and offerings.


Material palettes were displayed giving a floor by floor view into the new design. Glass blocks show which designers will be featured on those floors.

Like much of San Francisco, we look forward to seeing this new design come to fruition.

Barry Bourbon AIA, LEED® AP, is a leader of Gensler’s global retail practice and a principal in the San Francisco office. With a constant eye on the latest tools and technologies that connect consumers and retailers, Barry inspires colleagues to stay focused on the rapidly evolving issues facing clients, and to design for the holistic experience of a brand. Never one to shy from a challenge, Barry is an expert problem solver who excels at leading multi-location, multi-disciplinary teams with the tightest schedules and budgets. Contact him at
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