The Department Store for the Mind
6 Dec 2015
Launching in Old Street Station next week, the Department Store for the Mind brings a new dimension to retail: shopping by emotions. We caught up with the founder, Sophie Howarth, to find out exactly what this means. Over a coffee in Shoreditch, Sophie talked us through her inspirations and ideas for the store.
It was after launching the School of Life, a business dedicated to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture, that Sophie became interested in the idea that retail could be a place where we explore ourselves. She started looking at how the things people collected, bought and passed on to one another, were carriers of memories, emotions or ideas.
“I’m fascinated by the way we imbue everyday objects with significance. When I look around my home, the things that are most precious to me are those that remind me of particular people or places. Shopping is often seen as a bit mindless. It doesn’t have to be that way,” Sophie explains. That’s what prompted her to launch the Department Store for the Mind. “Most department stores focus on practical needs: the need for a new washing machine, microwave or sofa. Department Store for the Mind focuses on psychological needs: the need to love and be loved, to feel connected and purposeful, to find meaning and pleasure in our everyday lives,” Sophie says.
In today’s consumer driven society, too often shopping makes you think about the object, rather than the person your buying it for. However, the Department Store for the Mind pushes you to think about how you can connect more with that person. Inside the Old Street store, you’ll find a gift edit of their online store. The products stocked are chosen around things you’d be likely to give at Christmas time, but with a deeper meaning attached to them.
The products come from a collective of craftsmen, illustrators and designers. They include things like ‘Ten Deep Breaths’ a beaded bracelet to help you manage stress; ’What’s On Your Plate', a plate illustrated with reminders of what really matters in life; and ‘A Little Lift,’ a simple red balloon with a piece of twine. “It’s all about that pleasure of finding that perfect gift which says, ‘I’ve thought about you, I get you’,” Sophie adds.
The choice to launch Department Store for the Mind in the London Underground was also a strategic part of the plan. “The inside of the station is a bit like the state of someone’s mind during the day… you go from the rush hour franticness to little moments of pause and calm,” explains Sophie. In the frenzy of the station and Christmas, this will be a calm, beautiful space for people to stop and think.
The space itself will be designed around different states of mind such as: worriers, jugglers and dreamers. Inside, 3D descriptive squiggles represent the different permutations your mind can go into. Shoppers can follow the squiggles around the store, discovering different products grouped around each different state of mind. This is to help remind shoppers about the emotional connection of giving. Sophie wants shoppers to understand, "gifts are for people, not just for Christmas."
Their Old Street pop-up is just the start of a string of pop-ups for the Department Store for the Mind. Sophie sees this first pop-up as a chance for her to learn about their potential customers. Through talking to them and watching how they interact with the store, she plans to gain valuable insights, which is crucial when your company is only a couple of weeks old.
In the future, Sophie is looking forward to collaborating more with other creative minds and talents, her online blog is filled with interviews with creative thinkers and philosophers she admires. “I don’t think you can ever get bored of exploring the mind… and I’m thrilled by the idea you could walk into a store and walk out knowing more about yourself,” she explains.
The Department Store for the Mind is also part of a growing movement of businesses driven by a social mission. Although there are a lot of interesting apps and books that deal with helping people to be mindful and connect more, you’ll struggle to find the same sentiments in retail. Sophie hopes this store will change this,“our unique focus is on emotional health and wellbeing. There’s such a need for a retail brand that can help us live our everyday lives more mindfully, compassionately and joyfully.”
Discover the Department Store for the Mind in Unit 3, Old Street Station from December 15th.