“If you analyze the function of an object, its form often becomes obvious.” —Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche
Although established in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the visionary behind the iconic 911 coupe, the lifestyle brand Porsche Design has recently experienced a rebirth. The innovative accessories company had been partially controlled by the Porsche family until earlier this year, when the German marque Porsche AG gained full ownership. With the changing of the guard comes a refocus reflected by the grand opening of Porsche Design’s new retail concept in Costa Mesa, Calif., on November 30.
The 1,600-square-foot showcase is located in the center of South Coast Plaza, the same exclusive shopping enclave that housed the world’s first Porsche Design store in 1988. This time around, however, the mission is to more closely convey the automotive connection intrinsic to the development of Porsche Design’s product line.
“We are working closer together [with Porsche AG] in different dimensions—retail, marketing, and technology” says Jan Becker, Porsche Design’s chief executive officer. “The decision to take Porsche Design over completely was strategic. Porsche realizes that, in the future, it is not only about cars anymore, it’s also about lifestyle. I would regard Porsche Design as the logical surrounding of the core business of Porsche.”
This symbiotic relationship is reinforced in the store’s messaging and merchandising. Anchoring the latter is one of the latest 911 examples that serves as centerpiece for the floor space. In addition, a massive multimedia display (measuring 16 feet by 9 feet) projects glimpses into the pantheon of Porsche, including racing team updates and profiles. The visual narrative naturally ties in with the display of products, an array that ranges from sporty sunglasses and sweaters to tony travel cases and timepieces—even a hookah pipe baring Porsche Design’s sublime signature aesthetic.
“We have a defined portfolio of product categories that fits our brand,” explains Becker. “Our unique selling point is the equilibrium between functionality and design. That is what we basically stand for, and we stick to that with each and every product.” Becker admits that the idea for the pipe was not without controversy and considerable internal conversation within the company, but assures, “when we decide to go for it, we go for it—and there is no compromise.”
But perhaps no category more elegantly translates the pairing of Porsche Design and its automotive parent company than watches—especially the Monobloc Actuator 24H-Chronotimer Limited Edition. The timepiece is a tribute to the new 911 RSR, Porsche’s 510-hp GT racer. The inner workings of the watch’s innovative rocker switch—used to activate the chronograph—are based, in part, on the vehicle’s engine, while the black carbon dial is a call-out to the car’s body. In addition, the red indices and white hands match the motorsport team’s colors.
A day prior to the store’s official unveiling, I was invited to a preview of the location, preceded by a visit to the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles—a 53-acre track venue that debuted last year. Behind the wheel (but accompanied by one of the facility’s expert driving coaches), I was able to better comprehend the nearly intuitive handling of both the 911 Turbo and 718 Cayman S. Along with a circuit that simulates a winding country road, the closed course also features separate areas for testing launch control and honing skills in low-friction conditions, respectively.
After putting the marque’s machines through their paces, and perusing the products at the new store, I have a greater appreciation for Ferdinand Alexander Porsche’s operating premise: “A coherently designed product needs no adornment; it should be enhanced by its form alone. Good design should be honest.” It’s clear that Porsche and its lifestyle subsidiary hold that guide as gospel.