Flea Market Foraging at Anthropologie

“Retail Design is all about creating an experience,” I was told recently at a program at Kendall College of Art and Design, a little jewel of a school in Grand Rapids, MI.

One of the Interior Design instructors made this remark when I commented on  how challenging it must be to teach retail design in an age where Internet shopping is taking a center stage in our lives.

I thought about this statement when I entered the new Anthropolgie store just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago recently.  Wow.  It’s an experience.  Worth a peek just to see the new face of retail.

The space, once inhabited by American Girl store, also known for Experiential Retailing, is fairly small on the street level.  I was drawn to an enticing seating area, engaging displays of products and a wild mix o f merchandise.

Shopping at Anthro, as the insiders call it, is a bit like foraging at a flea market or a vintage clothing store without the bad smells.  You’ll never know what you’ll see next. The buyers travel all over the world to find unique, artsy, silly and interesting stuff. Then they display it in non-traditional ways.

The Chicago store is two-level with the second one underground. Down the colorfully painted stairs, you’d never know you were in a basement.  Products for the home are introduced with a giant mixer filled with flour.  Many of the walls have “décor” that isn’t for sale.  Shirts are mixed with books.  It’s a bit like the way we live.  Jumbled.

It’s a one-of-a-kind aesthetic, even if they have tons of the merchandise back in some warehouse. It’s stuff that yearns to be touched, handled and enjoyed.  Clothing, shoes, home décor, accessories, books, cards and jewelry. Vases and furniture. Plates and mugs.  Candles. An intoxicating mix.

So, the next time you want a flea-market fix but have no time for a jaunt in the country, check out your closest Anthropolgie and then tell me what you think.

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6 Responses to Flea Market Foraging at Anthropologie

  1. Wonderful article! I agree Kendall College of Art and Design, is a little jewel of a school in Grand Rapids, MI.

  2. smithsj says:

    Thank you. Kendall is a treasure.

  3. Peggy DePersia says:

    You’re right, it does feel like a flea market in a very hip, chic, fresh yet funky kind of way.
    It makes me think of ‘folk art’. I think the bright colors, homey mix (what could speak more quintessentially of home than flour….in a fundamental way), and the mix/match of stuff that might remind one of repurposed garments, tools, or furnishings of all kinds that find a way through either the pragmatism or inventiveness of the creator to become something new or newly purposeful, suggest the heartfelt appeal of the best ‘art of the folk’.
    (There was a word for these folk in your little volume on the Chinese language.)

  4. Kim Cornetet says:


    I actually helped with a display in the NYC Anthropologie store. When I entered the store they had a wall where they were making a tissue paper display of a landscape. 4 designers were ripping by hand small pieces of tissue paper and putting them on the tape. I jumped in and helped. As I travel I never notice the same display in an Anthroplogie store. The designers told me that each store has the freedom to display the product as they would like and that each store has several designers that are there to create the WOW!

  5. smithsj says:

    How interesting. Gives one more incentive to visit stores in different locations. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. Lois White Tomasiewicz says:

    Can’t wait for the new GR Anthro opening in Fall of ’11 at Breton Village!

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