German camera maker Leica opened its newest flagship store in Kyoto that operates in Gion, a traditional geisha neighbourhood. A 100-year-old, two-story traditional “machiya” style townhouse reconstructed using artisan techniques, retaining the exterior and the original structure, has been married to the Leica worldview, creating a unique Leica store unlike any before it.
Contemporary elements were styled by Danish design studio OeO, alongside with Kyoto textile maker Hosoo and Yoshida. The store’s interior, which evokes an atmosphere of Japanese tradition, features two floors; a shop downstair, a tatami room, an indoor garden and a gallery upstair. By retaining much of the original structures and facade, the new Leica shop sit in perfection with its neighbors. Only a small lantern bearing the Leica logo plus a logo on the entrance curtain are used to mark the Leica shop. It’s a clever localization of the Leica brand in this 1,200-years of ancient city.
To mark the opening of Kyoto store, Leica released 100 pieces of limited-edition Leica MP camera in olive green with leather strap with a price tag of euro 11,000.
Leica’s chairman and major shareholder, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, is said to be a huge Apple fan and admires the Cupertino company’s enviable brand image and marketing strategy. In particular, believes that Apple has shown the way in the retailing of aspirational products. Evidence of this came last year with the co-operation between designers Marc Newson and Apple’s Jony Ive in the creation of a unique Leica M for the (RED) charity. It sold for over £1 million at Sothebys. And earlier this year the Leica T with its aluminium body was widely seen as a MacBook Pro disguised to look like a camera.
But the similarity is most obvious in the comparison between Apple Stores and Leica Stores. Go anywhere in the world and you know when you are in an Apple Store. Apart from the different languages and currencies on the tags, every store looks the same. And Apple has a knack of blending in with local sensitivies–witness the London Covent Garden store and the new Berlin premises in Kurfürstendamm. Similarly, go to London, Washington, Los Angeles, Beijing and a dozen other cities and Leica’s stores are all exactly the same in general design. The Kyoto store shows again that good design can embrace tradition.
Of course, Leica stores look nothing like Apple stores. They are much smaller for a start; and the predominant colour is black. But the spiritual link is there all the same.