While brick-and-mortar shops such as Autoría provide a platform to showcase the work of Argentine artists and designers, the showroom has become the vehicle of choice for young independent designers to sell their wares. These closed-door shops, often operating out of unusual spaces such as a garage or the designer’s own home, have the added benefit of providing more privacy and security than a store on the street.
Shopping this way is a deliberate choice. You are unlikely to happen upon them; generally not on street level, some showrooms only reveal their location via private message. This makes shopping there not only a reflexive, but also a much more proactive, decision, as you have to make the conscious choice to ring the doorbell and gain entry to the treasure trove of unique pieces within.
Showrooms are by no means an exclusively Argentine concept, but they fit perfectly with the personality of the country’s capital. When you’re fresh off the boat, Buenos Aires can seem overwhelmingly dense, it can take a while to unpick the multiple layers which make it so singular. Buenos Aires is a city where everything is available, if you only know where to look; showrooms are a physical embodiment of this quality. Initially unnoticed, once you scratch away at the surface, a whole world of these hidden gems opens up to you, a myriad of impossibly chic oases tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Even the very act of discovery is gratifying. You could walk past one every day without knowing it was there, but once they’re on your radar you gain access to a whole new world of hidden treasures.
For Flor Díaz and Andi Escudero, opening a showroom has provided a space for them to collaborate with their contemporaries in the capital’s thriving design community. While showrooms have been a prominent fixture in the Buenos Aires shopping scene for the past decade, they only opened Yey House two months ago, as a collaborative, multi-brand space to display both their products and those of fellow up-and-coming designers.
Places such as Yey House are now the first step for designers wishing to open up their offer to a wider market. “At the moment, there is a real culture of showrooms in Buenos Aires. There’s loads of them and they’re really de moda. Here in Palermo, for example, showrooms are in constant growth,” says Flor. Andi agrees that for young designers, showrooms are the logical next progression after launching a brand. “We have lots of friends from university who are now designers and most of them have showrooms.”
Andi and Flor are the minds behind the successful shoe and bag outfit Pineapple, where their products are reinventions of classic styles and shapes with nary a plataforma in sight. The brands that they have chosen to display are similar in aesthetic: “We try to make sure that the brands we show are connected and share a common style. They don’t have their own established shops, and so we provide one of their only puntos de venta,” says Flor.
There is a wealth of young designers in Buenos Aires, but what is refreshing to see is that rather than the ruthless competition of big business fashion, they’ve formed a community willing one another to succeed. “It’s good to all be together here with all the different brands that we have, as we empower ourselves and bring together the diverse audiences,” explains Flor. Each brand has a unique audience, but the connections between them mean that those who enter looking for one thing often leave having purchased from other brands they had not yet heard of.
This is also due to the fact that shopping here is a much more personal experience that in your average street-level store. Flor and Andi, as the owners, are always there and so they get to know customers and help them with their purchases. For them, shopping is a collaborative experience. “Sometimes they will come for just one item or with an idea and together we can make a complete look. [Shoppers] can take their time, it’s very tranquilo.”
That is not to say that they promote the mindless consumption of products. For Andi, “people come to a showroom because they really want a product and are searching for something that interests them. These are also local brands with a limited production, using local resources to create unique pieces.” There is a finite quantity of each product on offer; these spaces become treasure troves for those looking to differentiate themselves from the mainstream.
It is this sense of joy at finding something unique that explains their choice of name. ‘Yey’ comes from the joy that they want people to feel when visiting them. It’s not hard to feel this way upon entering. Each brand is displayed sensitively in their light-filled local, in a careful, considered combination of brands. “In Yey House, each brand has its own space,” explains Flor. “When our customers leave the showroom, we want them to have had a pleasant experience, but also that they feel comfortable here and so want to return.”
Much of the client base comes from their online presence. Social media plays a vital role for showrooms, as it democratizes the industry by providing fledgling designers with a free source of advertising. The trends are changing however, and Instagram is now far more important for attracting customers than Facebook. While Facebook is useful for communicating with an audience, in the design world at least, Instagram is the ideal platform to build a brand and a clientele. Showrooms often use Instagram in inventive ways, connecting with the social network’s young demographic and encouraging them to seek out the store.
Given the reliance on Instagram and the relative youth of the designers, the concept of a showroom sounds determinedly ‘millennial,’ but while I had expected most of the customers to come from this generation, this is not necessarily the case. “Sometimes a mother will come here with her daughter, and will shop from different brands.” This style of one-stop shopping means there is something for everyone, all condensed into this unique space.
While it’s difficult to clearly outline their clientele in terms of generation, at the moment they do attract a largely female audience. However, “we’re working hard to incorporate more male and unisex brands into our offer. With Pineapple, our own brand, we have recently brought out unisex riñoneras (fanny packs) so that now our audience is more of a mix.” Eventually, the idea is that there will be something for everyone to attract a more diverse set of customers who all feel at ease in the space.
What is particularly refreshing is the level of quality of products on offer. For so many years, home grown design was looked down upon as inferior, lacking the competitive edge of imported products. Showrooms such as Yey House celebrate the work of independent Argentine designers and demonstrate the sea of high-quality, unique pieces they create, reclaiming the reputation of national production and molding it into something new and desirable.
The showroom has been gaining steam in the past two months and so as with Autoría, the next step is to tackle e-commerce, although this seems a bit of a shame. While online shopping is rooted in anonymity and avoiding face-to-face contact, the showroom is the complete antithesis of that concept. So much of the charm of the business is the ability to go in person, to talk to Flor and Andi and let them show you pieces that you never would have considered by yourself. While the online is inevitable, and makes their products accessible to those living further afield, for those living in Buenos Aires a visit to the showroom is not to be missed.
Wed to Sat 3PM – 8PM | El Salvador 4758, Timbre 2 | Yey House