Architect Nathan Lee Colkitt’s relationship with PUMA goes back nearly a decade. “I moved to LA in 2004, working for Stephen Kanner, the architect who came up with the initial design for the first PUMA stores in world,” he recalls. Hired initially to work on high-rise projects, economic realities put those on hold. “I got moved into the retail department and assigned to the PUMA account. I had never seen that side of things. It was fast paced—the closest thing to instant gratification you can get in architecture.” Colkitt became the department head in short order and traveled around the world as the brand expanded. He ultimately struck out on his own, establishing Colkitt & Co, but kept in touch with PUMA.
Eventually, PUMA came to him with a new opportunity: the chance to redesign the company’s outlet program. “They never had an outlet design,” explains Colkitt. The existing stores had stacks of shelving, rounders for clothing and harsh warehouse lighting, but, says Colkitt, “The market was shifting, and the premium outlet was rising. We started thinking about how to display the merchandise, make it shop-able and user friendly.” Colkitt and his team reimagined the outlets, moving them more in line aesthetically-speaking with its full-price stores by improving displays and lighting and creating central areas of the store to allow customers to try on footwear and linger.
In 2011, the company decided it was time to refresh its store in New York’s SoHo district, first opened in 2001 and without a substantial remodel since. “It was a little dated,” Colkitt says, “but in one of their prime locations.” Colkitt and his team were one of several groups brought in to work fulfill the the concept design and store vision created by Plajer & Franz, who imagined a space that would reflect the overall PUMA brand while still giving the store a sense of place. For example, the wood bleachers and emphasis on footwear throughout the store are part of the overall brand strategy. Other elements give it an “only in New York” feel. Windows that seem as if they could have come straight off a brownstone line the walls. In the dressing rooms the tiled walls give the illusion of a subway station. The neon “Girls Girls Girls” sign, directing shoppers to the women’s section, is a sly nod to the city’s seedier past. “It’s a fun way of breathing local culture into the store,” Colkitt notes.
Good things have been flowing from the continued collaboration. The project led Colkitt & Co to expand—the firm now has a New York office. Recently, the SoHo store received an award from ARE in the Softline Specialty Store category, and Colkitt and his team are working on additional stores around the country. “It’s always a partnership,” he says of the collaboration. “And there’s always a little bit of humor with them.”