Nik Rush talks to Denizen15th June 2020 By Mina Kerr-Lazenby
When menswear retailer Rodd & Gunn opened The Lodge Bar, adjacent to its Queenstown store in 2016, they set a New Zealand precedent for a new era of retail. Although the idea of retailers with hospitality offerings is by no means a new concept, Ikea’s renowned Swedish meatballs are a testament to that, this was something new to our shores. It was a brand experience where guests could wholeheartedly engage in the Rodd & Gunn lifestyle, via both the clothes on their backs and the fine New Zealand cuisine in their bellies.
June 2020 will see the second of Rodd & Gunn’s celebrated Lodge Bar and retail concepts take up residence in Auckland’s Commercial Bay. The new outpost is promising to be an amplified version of the original, comprising a fresh retail store and an adjacent, 90-seater restaurant with The Lodge Bar’s acclaimed Michelin-starred chef Matt Lambert at the helm.
Experiential retail is a tough concept to master, but where others have failed to build a successful multi-faceted lifestyle brand, Rodd & Gunn has flourished. Consumers find it impossible to resist the warm, welcoming, South-Island hunting lodge spirit evoked when entering one of their outlets. What the retail aspect can deliver in clothing, the hospitality can match in local wine and delicious fare, but what truly makes the marriage a seamless one is the selection of innovative design choices.
Nik Rush, General Manager of Store Design and Visual Merchandising, can be credited for the brand’s distinctive rustic yet contemporary aesthetic. Since becoming involved with the brand’s physical designs in 2007 Rush has curated visuals for all of its interiors, including those scattered throughout the US, the first store in the UK – which has just opened in London’s Mayfair – and each new outlet at home, from concessions within David Jones to The Lodge Bar concepts themselves. Rush’s influences he explains are some of the greatest lodges and boutique hotels in New Zealand, like Queenstown’s Eichardt’s and Taupo’s much-lauded Huka Lodge. The design elements he employs in stores reflect as much, and the classic tongue and groove cladding, wide plank oak flooring, board and batten siding and accents derived from brass and steel have become just as synonymous with the Rodd & Gunn name as the instantly recognisable, English Pointer hound.
When it came to the concept for The Lodge Bar, Rush explains that he made the decision to utilise all the same design techniques to ensure there was “a real synergy” between retail and hospitality. Even the custom-made wine racks, he declares, are “made of similar steel to the racks that are used for the clothing in the store.”
It’s these overarching design elements that make both The Lodge Bar and the new Commercial Bay outpost adhere to function, but Rush attests that he never holds back as far as the form is concerned. From a visual perspective, The Lodge Bar & Dining will be “very neutral” but in a relaxing, beckoning way. It will – acting in accordance with the traditional lodge motif – be “robust, not trendy” and will employ layers of comforting, textural materials. Eschewing trends in favour of sensory experience appears to be Rush’s design mantra, because from him enhancing wellness through design is appealing. “It’s about making customers feel physically, mentally and emotionally good upon entering – most times [they’re] not even sure as to why, but the why is something we have worked hard to achieve” he explains, “the new Lodge Bar & Dining concept is indicative of this.”
Located in the soon-to-be bustling hub of Commercial Bay, Rodd & Gunn’s new venture is designed to act as a haven where busy shoppers, inner city corporates and tourists can all enjoy some quiet respite. And that’s the true allure of Rodd & Gunn, not just its sartorial prowess or the world-class cuisine it produces, but the fact that all of its spaces offer an opportunity to take a brief hiatus from busy lives and revel in the superb New Zealand lodge lifestyle that so many flock to our corner of the world for. It’s what Rush describes as “providing a sense of shelter,” and we don’t think we can sum up the Rodd & Gunn lifestyle better than that.