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Sharing Leisure in São Paulo

The Havaianas Global Retail rollout. Image © Marcos Cimardi.

We recently spoke with Maureen Boyer, leader of Gensler’s global Retail Centers Practice and Director of the firm’s São Paulo office and Thais Rosa, who heads that region’s retail practice, about leisure, São Paulo-style.

Editorial Team (ET): So the big question is, how do you define leisure in São Paulo?

Maureen (M): For us, leisure is basically anything that's not work, though the lines are blurred.

Thais (T): I think leisure can be found everywhere. It’s a state of mind. What a space help you to do is to be comfortable enough to feel that a moment is a leisure moment. Leisure in São Paulo is associated with your social life—being with large families and groups of friends. It’s usually sunny and we‘re out on the street, so it’s also a very public expression of leisure.

Maureen: There's a huge emphasis on connecting and celebrating together, so it’s common that we all go out to lunch.

ET: You're talking about using public space and engaging with the city quite a bit. Are there safety concerns?

M: Yes, but you also have to keep in mind the real differences between the Latin American countries and cultures. You can’t lump these cultures together. In São Paulo, security is top of everyone's mind, but that doesn't prevent people from going out. A significant portion of the upper-income population prefers the secure environment of a shopping center. Malls here have a lot more security than they would in the US, and it gets more visible the more upscale the retail environment.

T: But at the same time, the interiors of shopping centers are made to feel more like exterior areas. We are currently renovating a shopping center built in the fortress-style typical of the 1970s-1990s. With these older shopping centers we tend to open them up, making them more porous for interaction and exposed to the beautiful São Paulo climate.

ET: How else does that indoor/outdoor flow and social character work back into design? It sounds like you’re designing something like more formalized public spaces?

T: Yes, that’s right. Lately, our clients want lifestyle within their space. It’s all about the experience and the lifestyle. For Club Med’s first store outside of France, they focused on creating the resort experience. It's interesting how the focus has changed in the last years.

ET: What was the focus before it became lifestyle or leisure oriented?

T: Previously there was a trade approach driven by the flow of grabbing products, services, and purchasing on the go.

The Havaianas Global Retail rollout. Image © Marcos Cimardi

ET: Could you tell me more about the marketplace concept for Havaianas and how you interpreted the informal markets of the city of the interior?

T: We have a lot of street markets here where all the products are laid out to see. There are lots of people meeting, talking, eating and shopping all at the same time—you know the experience.

M: It's a wonderful experience, and in the States these farmers’ markets are happening everywhere. More communities have latched onto the value and beauty of small production. It's interesting the way global trends cycle through. People here go to supermarkets as well, but to buy bulk. The only difference between shopping customs in The States and São Paulo is that the market experience never left. This has always been the model in São Paulo.

ET: Could you give a little background on Havaianas?

T: Havaianas has been in Brazil for over 50 years. At first they sold one sandal—the white version with the light blue stripe. Then 25 years ago, they expanded to have more graphic elements, huge advertisements, and that’s when they started selling everywhere in the world. They became huge. It's a brand that sells to the poorest person and the richest person. The Havaianas brand doesn’t live within parameters for type of customer or use of product. You can wear their sandals at the beach or with nice clothing. Last year, they started expanding their brands to have clothing and beachwear.

The Havaianas Global Retail rollout. Image © Marcos Cimardi

ET: So the design concept for their store is an interpretation of these markets?

M: Yes, so when Thais says “market stall,” our design for the Havaianas store really celebrates that typology and way of interacting. The product is displayed in baskets and on tables like in an open-air market. It’s super accessible.

T: You can see it in the store. There is a fake palm tree, or our interpretation of a palm tree. The ceiling light imitates the light outside and filters through a parasol. It's like looking at the sky.

M: It’s beautiful. We're in the process of writing the global design guidelines for Havaianas to roll this store program globally.

T: But it’s also great that the design guidelines include different formats for different contexts. There is a kiosk for the Brazil market and the international market. There’s also different formats for shop in shops, for high-end centers and for franchises. All these formats communicate very well.

This article is an extension of an interview conducted by Mimi Zeiger for Dialogue 26, “World of Leisure: Latin America.” Zeiger is a Los Angeles–based writer and a contributing editor at Architect.

Maureen Boyer is the co-managing director of Gensler´s Sao Paulo office, from which she also leads the firm’s global retail centers practice. With over 25 years of experience in design, project management and construction management, Maureen focuses on reinventing and redeveloping retail environments with a balanced emphasis on architecture and interior design. Through her continuous research of ever-changing consumer behavior and shopping trends, Maureen executes a uniquely customized solution for her clients and their customers. Contact her at maureen_boyer@gensler.com.
Thais Rosa is an associate and retail designer in Gensler´s Sao Paulo office. Contact her at thais_rosa@gensler.com.

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