As Grant Cleghorn explains, the Gone. brand is
‘built around the values: Live outdoors. Serve our community. Protect the environment. We wanted the store to manifest our core values, to inspire people to get outdoors, to create a space where the community can gather to share experiences and to celebrate and encourage environmental activism.
This ethos is certainly aligned with that of one of the retailer’s premium brands, Patagonia, the California-based company established by rock climber Yvon Chouinard in the 1970s. Describing itself as an “activist company”, Patagonia has won admirers far and wide for its commitment to sustainability and its contribution to environmental causes all over the globe.
One self-described “fan of the Patagonia brand” is store designer Aidan Benetts, who comments on the functionality and durability of the clothing, which is designed to be used for a lifetime and often backed by 18 months of research and design.
He also points out that Gone. aims to be “more than a retail store – it’s a hub for adventure enthusiasts. The store hosts regular movie screenings and get-togethers, and they are the sponsors of the Three Peaks Trail Race, an iconic run that includes Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. Even the name of the store, Gone., captures that spirit of adventure; it symbolises that ‘I’m in the outdoors, I’m not sitting at home’.”
Benetts says he used these “alignments” as inspiration for the design of the Constantia-based flagship store. “I wanted to create a humble environment, with natural elements that celebrated the outdoor lifestyle. We were careful of not creating too much of a synthetic feel to anything – we wanted the space to be well textured, and to have a natural sense of space and lighting.”
The designer explains that this design philosophy was closely reflected in the choice of materials: “I wanted to use honest, humble materials – and not dress them too much. This meant no spray-painting, no upholstery – we wanted to use wood, as well as natural coatings to showcase the wood, as opposed to covering it in lacquer.”
For all the floor displays, as well as the point-of-sale counter, the AB Designs team went for birch ply treated with a water-based sealant, “a very refined plywood usually used for interior ship construction, such as on luxury yachts, and in furniture,” Benetts says.
As well as laminated pine beams for the footwear section, “We also incorporated into the design normal hardware store items – such as threaded pins, which became the shelves for the shoes. This was an example of ordinary, everyday items being repurposed in an interesting way, and was another element we could use to reflect the functional and cost-effective ethos of Gone. as a retailer and Patagonia as a brand.”
A further example of this sustainable approach to the design can be found in the store’s Surf Shack area, where – as Benetts explains – “We searched long and hard to source some IBR roof sheeting we could reuse for the store. This involved searching in rural areas till we found some discarded sheeting we could cut up to create cladding, and after it was installed we put a clear lacquer on it to seal in the dilapidated look.”
Reflecting on what the design of the store has helped to achieve, Benetts says: “Gone. provides a great outdoor retail experience – a one-stop-shop for everything you need. In addition, they have a photo gallery featuring their customers, which builds the outdoor lifestyle element of the retail experience, as well as a library in the back and a VIP section where you can plan a trip and look through old maps and other resources. They also have a repair station, with a full-time employee who will patch and repair clothes free of charge. This keys into the ‘one item for life’ philosophy that has made the Patagonia brand famous; that unique appeal to customers to ‘repair it, don’t replace it’.”
These ideas are underscored by Cleghorn: “We sell high-quality outdoor apparel that is designed to last a lifetime. As the retail partners to the outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, we stand by the quality of the goods we sell. We also believe that that to be sustainable we should look after our gear and make it last – and so we even offer free repairs on everything we sell.”
He concludes: “Visitors to the Gone. Constantia store should expect best-in-class products and advice from our team that use our products on a daily basis, in an environment that is welcoming and inspirational.”