For most of us, shopping online is by now second nature – but it comes with pitfalls, including not being able to try something on, feel fabric and weight, or see colours accurately.

And for smaller or up-and-coming independent brands, it’s more challenging than ever to connect with customers amid a crowded landscape. That’s where Spacefor comes in.

The Britomart showroom opened in The Pavilions in June, aiming to offer a contemporary and minimal yet beautifully designed short-term retail space that businesses can hire to display their wares. Since launching it’s hosted a showing for fashion brand Rebe’s upcoming Resort 2024 collection, and there are upcoming residencies booked with Flow Studio Ceramics, woollen luggage and accessories label Honest Wolf, and more.

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It was created by digital creative Max Mamaev, founder of production company Department, and outfitted with custom modular furniture by award-winning design studio Clark Bardsley.

Broadsheet caught up with Mamaev to discuss his vision for Spacefor.

Why was this something you wanted to do?
I’ve always been interested in market disruption. I watched how flexible working spaces changed the rules for work and saw a gap for a similarly disruptive solution for retail.

Ecommerce offers incredible opportunities and removes many barriers. However, since Covid, we are in a new era of retail where many consumers value in-person experiences over the convenience of online. People want to be in physical stores again. They want connections and seek tangible experiences. Spacefor solves the accessibility issue and allows brands to connect meaningfully with their community.

And it’s not just about shopping. I’m excited about the opportunities we can provide for more unique and immersive experiences and activations that the public does not expect to see in showrooms like ours, from exhibitions, events, tech launches and beyond.

How did you go about bringing this concept to life?
It took about two years from the initial idea to launching our first showroom. Early on, we sought feedback from numerous brands, overwhelmingly confirming [the need for our concept].

Finding the right site and landlord partner was critical, and it took some time, but we couldn’t have asked for a better launch place (our Britomart Pavilion site).

We knew that for our concept to work, it needed to be adaptable and fully functional, addressing most problems brands face when bringing their brand to life, so we took care of fixtures and furniture, technology, payments, retail analytics, and more. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and we’re just getting started.

What was the thinking behind the design and aesthetics?
Design-led spaces are a core value at Spacefor. We aimed for a premium feel that makes our clients proud while maintaining a calm aesthetic that lets the brands and their products take centre stage.

Any particular design elements to highlight?
We adapted some elements from the previous fit-out and introduced an integrated set of modular merchandising tools like shelves, racks and screens. Also, we consciously decided to avoid non-recyclable materials in our system – our plug-in wall accessories and shelves are all made from metal, ensuring their durability and preventing waste at the end of their use.

What’s the feedback been like so far?
Brands love it. There is a sense of pride in being able to showcase their brand IRL. And knowing that we’re facilitating this experience makes us incredibly proud.

Can you share what’s coming up for Spacefor and what brands people can expect to see?
We have an exciting roster of activations that range from fashion, technology, homewares, art and beyond. Author Ceramics will be bringing its studio experience to life, where the public can participate in live classes and demonstrations. We are thrilled to be establishing a partnership with New Zealand Fashion Week: Kahuria in August, where we will support and showcase emerging designers. This will be the first physical showroom experience for them to connect with the general public. There will be a pop-up by Cathy Fan of hugely popular Asian-fusion online bakery Fankery with her mochi-filled cheesecakes. And New Zealand luggage and accessory label Honest Wolf is showcasing its collections in Auckland for the first time.

Anything else to add?
We’re expanding! Keep an eye out for the announcement of our second showroom very soon.