Platform Store with Molawin Evangelista and Cyrus Chow

Platform Store is Molawin Evangelista and Cyrus Chow. Molawin is Co-Founder and Creative Director and Cyrus is also Co-Founder and Managing Director. Platform is a conceptual retail project based in Auckland, New Zealand that specialises in international streetwear, publications and lifestyle objects and has a focus of bringing the creative community of the city together.

What began as intermittent temporary shops hosted inside other shops, such as Holm Coffee just last year, has evolved into a more permanent location and more importantly, a literal platform from which the pair can build on their vision. We spoke with them about the journey towards this physical space to call their own as well as the project’s identity within the local Kiwi creative scene.

 

How did the idea for Platform come about?

The idea of Platform came from our frustrations of the lack of spaces and unique retail concepts in Auckland at the time. We had just come back from our first trip to Tokyo and we were beyond inspired by how they do retail in the sense that the stores we went to provided not only great product but also provided an experience to all visitors. There were certain spaces we visited that made us feel like we were more than just customers passing by but actually made us feel like we were part of something bigger and that our tastes and thoughts were valued.

When we returned to Auckland, we wondered why there were no places like this here? We have the people and creative community here that have always longed for a place to meet each other besides on Instagram DM’s and have craved for a space that also provided product that hasn’t been seen before. We sat down in Cyrus’ living room one night and thought to ourselves that this needed to change. At the time of the idea, we were both in our studies and didn’t have the time or financial means to pursue this as a full-time gig. We began playing with the idea of having temporary spaces annually. The purpose of this was to house specialty product and brands from around the world and to design the space in a way that allows people to come in and feel comfortable to stay and talk to each other no matter what creative medium they’re into or wanting to get into.

After a few months of planning, we launched the first iteration of Platform titled “A Temporary Experience” in 2017 and was situated in Victoria Park Markets. This area is quite a destination spot here in Auckland and a place where you would not expect to find a conceptual retail project. It was open for 1 week and despite not having a huge audience and being in a very hidden spot, word got around town of our space quick and more people showed up than we could even imagine, most of which we had never met before. From this, we knew that our hunch was right and that people here in Auckland really did crave for a space like this. We created another pop up the following year with even bigger results than expected which is was what finally led us to develop the idea even further into a permanent space which open May of this year.

We began playing with the idea of having temporary spaces on an annual basis. The purpose of this was to house specialty product and brands from around the world and to design the space in a way that allows people to come in and feel comfortable to stay and talk to each other no matter what creative medium they’re into or wanting to get into.

You talk about the role of physical retail amidst a challenging “Amazon eating the world” future. Did you feel the need to reconsider how your experience would stack up?

We think that with how the world is today being that most connections and shopping is now predominantly online actually puts people like us at an advantage. Our focus has always been on the experience rather than the product so by having a physical presence in the form of a retail flagship already provides something that online services or stores don’t: Real human interaction. Existing in a retail space also creates a feeling that can’t be grasped in a digital format. Yes we live in an age where incredible imagery can easily be produced but there is no way to experience a conversation in person with someone that has the same tastes and mindset as you, having hour long conversations in space that you know has been built for people like you. From these factors, we didn’t feel the need to reconsider our approach of being primarily physical focused.

What are the benefits of being in New Zealand? What are the challenges?

Being in a small country like New Zealand allows ideas and messages to be seen and heard more easily than a place with a larger population. Since our community here is so small and tight knit, anyone that decides to do something cool and different usually will get some attention and notice quite fast. This makes our country almost like a blank canvas for ideas. The downside of being in New Zealand is being so far away from the rest of the world and being recognised on a global scale becomes a bigger challenge for us and other creatives from here.

You mention New Zealand being a bit of a blank canvas. Is the work created often compared directly against more established and bigger markets? Is that a good or bad thing?

We think it’s more of a good thing that creatives in New Zealand look towards the global industry for reference because we feel the overall goal that were trying to achieve when we create something here is to show the world that New Zealand can be on the playing field too. There is definitely an element of influence from the global industry but that being said, we think it’s more good than bad. Our city is still growing on the creative playing field and being so isolated in this side of the world, it’s somewhat necessary to take aspects from more established markets until we bump into our voice. Think of it as when you’re starting out in any creative medium, there will always be an inspirational figure or body of work that guides you in a certain direction. On a larger scale for our city, it’s almost the same process – we’re experimenting with existing works until we slowly bump into our own voice.

How do you balance access to the Internet with physical outcomes? Do you ever take into consideration “over-influence” from the Internet?

It’s definitely something that we tend to toss about, especially in terms of digital marketing versus guerilla marketing. It’s easy to create for the internet and be inspired by what we see online, however being a physical retailer and a destination spot that’s driven by individuals that resonate with us, we have a whole channel of in-person discussions that also largely informs what we do around our local community. In a way we’re able to balance and filter out what we see online to those around us, that being an ever-developing audience in Auckland, New Zealand.

In your eyes, growing up primarily in a digital world, what is the value of physical and face-to-face interaction?

There is only so much that you can feel when you interact with something digitally. It’s hard to grasp and retain an actual connection over something or someone that you can only see on the internet. When you take away the barrier of being behind a screen, we feel that’s when we actually begin to truly understand whatever it is that you’re interacting with. That feeling and connection with the real world is what drives the experience and motivation of Platform Store.

We think it's more of a good thing that creatives in New Zealand look towards the global industry for reference because we feel the overall goal that were trying to achieve when we create something here is to show the world that New Zealand can be on the playing field too. There is definitely an element of influence from the global industry but that being said, we think it’s more good than bad.

What’s the balance between local brands and international brands at Platform? What do you think that relationship should be?

We’re conscious about how we position our products and brands, aiming to bring together a curation that highlights the exciting things coming out of our city and how we see it placed amongst other international labels.

The relationship between local and global isn’t too much a matter of selecting the best from our side of town but more creating a link between New Zealand and the rest of the world. Having a physical store to communicate this to our local customers and then the online store to display this worldwide helps to create the bigger picture of where we view our city on the creative map

Describe to me what the local scene is like? How has it, or will it change rather, with more physical spaces to connect?

The scene in Auckland is a small and tight knit one but continues to grow every year. It feels like no-one really knows that there are people like them around since there has never been permanent spaces for everyone to meet. People from the scene meet and interact at events and pop-ups but once they’re over, it’s back to just wondering where to go to meet and hang with like-minded people. We feel that the more spaces that open in Auckland like us, the
more likely it is that the scene will grow, new ideas will form from them meeting each other and overall contribute to Auckland City as a whole. It’s like an eco-system or a cycle.

What did you think it’d be like creating your own space, and what has been the reality?

As you can imagine it definitely takes a few iterations to get the space feeling right however we were able to use our experiences with previous concepts to develop something that resonated with us. With the previous spaces it was more working around the space that we were given since these lasted no more than a month, meaning we had to work around the barrier of a short-time frame and develop the fit-out within certain boundaries.

That isn’t to say that we had no boundaries to work within for the flagship store but we were able to create a space which is inherently more “Platform Store”. The focus was to create a space that is timeless since we had no end date in sight (aside from the one in our lease terms). We focused largely on modularity because we envisioned the space to be ever-changing and have the ability to host a myriad of events that range in all aspects of culture.

The focus was to create a space that is timeless since we had no end date in sight (aside from the one in our lease terms). We focused largely on modularity because we envisioned the space to be ever-changing and have the ability to host a myriad of events that range in all aspects of culture.

It’s interesting because we had a picture of what the space would look and feel like in our heads but as you bounce around ideas and more things get made, the beginning vision can completely change. What we originally thought the layout was going to be was switched on a whim once our fit-out was made, and recently has been swapped around again for a fresh look. Having set our goals and requirements for the space to be more than “this has to be here, that has to be there” but more along the lines of everything must be modular to allow for a community driven space and for any style of brand to be hosted in the space has definitely helped keep our options open.

Everything in the space is custom-built for us by a local steel fabricator called Saint Leo and the LED sign by New Territory, a creative execution studio. We like to use the skills of those around us so the space was also a curation of the talent we’re connected with and our own tastes.

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