Platform’s Molawin Evangelista details their unique transition from retail store to design studio
PLATFORM began as a pop-up, and then permanent, conceptual retail store before making the unique transition into a full-service design studio in the first quarter of 2021. Based in Auckland, New Zealand, they have finally made their growing portfolio public with their new website, made in collaboration with New Territory Studio. Hoping to learn more about their backgrounds and rare path into the graphic design industry, we caught up with Co-founder Molawin Evangelista.
EM Hi Mo, how are you?
ME Good Elliott, thank you for having me! Currently writing this in my lounge as New Zealand is in level four lockdown which is our highest restriction level for COVID-19. Slowly getting cabin fever but still in good spirits!
EM What is your background prior to starting PLATFORM?
ME I was a psychiatric nurse for a few years before my business partner Cyrus and I decided to dive into Platform full-time. During this time, we had already established a name for ourselves within the local fashion and creative scene from doing a lot of editorials and brand work for a few of the big names here. While I was in my last year of nursing school and Cyrus in the midst of his fashion degree, we began to talk about the idea of bringing something new to the local fashion scene that we had noticed no other brands or retailers were providing for a growing fashion market here. We knew that it could come in the form of bringing in brands and products that have not been introduced here before, but we had a feeling that there was something more significant that we could offer. We went to Japan for the first time during our university breaks and it completely opened our eyes to the potential that brands and stores could do to create worlds, communities and experiences around their product. We had never seen retail done this way before in New Zealand. This was the catalyst of our coming ideas for Platform.Over the coming years, we created ‘temporary experiences’ under the Platform moniker. The first one started in June 2017 in the form of a week-long pop-up store carrying publications, brands and objects from around the world. In 2018, we held another temporary experience in the form of a pop-up bookstore called ‘The Research Centre’ held at two different locations over the course of a month. As Platform’s reputation grew, we became busier and our ideas started to become a bit more ambitious to the point where tasks and work for Platform began to bleed into our day jobs. The demand for Platform’s continued existence grew from here until in 2019, we had the opportunity to open a permanent flagship store that housed a selection of exclusive products that had a focus on Japanese labels as well as our own in-house designed brands. Within this space, we also held multiple community events in the form of international exhibitions, music events, collaborations and product launches. We knew that this was the sign for us to try and tackle Platform full-time. I officially left my nursing position in March 2019.
We have always wanted our work to inspire other brands.
EM Why did you decide to transition PLATFORM from retail store to design studio?
ME This was always our plan from the beginning of Platform. Platform’s overarching mission is to create and introduce a style of creative work that brings up and influences New Zealand’s standard for contemporary design and communication. We have always wanted our work to inspire other brands and companies here to explore different ways their product can communicate with global appeal in mind. The store, along with our preceding concept pop-ups, acted as testing and showcase grounds for our ideas and concepts. It was in these spaces where we experimented in the realms of creative direction, graphic design, product development, content and more with no restrictions. Brands and companies were noticing what we were doing and were either asking for our help or trying to replicate our style which was a sign that we were on the right track. We refined what we felt were our strongest skills and what people were gravitating to the most, which is now what informs our services that we offer today as a studio. We felt that helping other brands as opposed to just our own endeavours was the true way to achieve our goal of elevating the creative scene of New Zealand as a whole. In March 2021, we decided to pursue this bigger goal and continue to focus solely as a full-service studio.
GAINING THAT TRUST IS KEY IN BOTH WORLDS.
EM Have you faced any challenges in making the transition?
ME I think one of the biggest challenges was shifting our mindset, routine and processes from being a store to a studio. It took us a few months to find a new flow and find a new way of communicating from selling products to selling a service, while also finding a way to announce this transition in the most easily understandable way to the audience that we had built. We got a lot of help and advice from our experienced studio and design friends (a special shout out to New Territory Studio, who also built our new website), which we are extremely thankful for and has definitely helped guide us in the right direction.
EM Does running a studio feel totally different to a store, or do you see any similarities?
ME In some ways, it does feel similar. Like a store, we’ve found that a studio still requires a high level of marketing, brand presence, reputation and community engagement. One of the most important similarities that I’ve found a store and studio needs from their end client or customer is trust. Whether it’s through great service or providing the best product, gaining that trust is key in both worlds.
EM What do you enjoy about working with brands in the fashion industry?
ME Fashion brands tend to be a lot more open-minded for experimentation and creative freedom which we enjoy a lot. Given our backgrounds come from fashion, we are quite well-equipped with the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when producing things within the fashion industry. Storytelling and creating strong narratives in all aspects and deliverables is a big part of working with a fashion brand which are aspects that Platform is very strong at. While fashion clients tend to be the majority of our work, we are beginning to branch out to other industries and work with companies that are also open to the same amount of creative freedom and experimentation.
I would love to also have the opportunity to work within the mental health sector.
EM What other industries would you particularly like to work in?
ME We would definitely love to work on a project within the arts and culture sector, something such as a gallery, institution or a theatre. I like the idea of providing the visual tools and assets towards education and awareness within this realm. Given my background in the psychiatric medical field, I would love to also have the opportunity to work within the mental health sector in New Zealand and use design as a way to contribute towards improving our mental health care systems and services.
EM If you could only show one piece of work – one to define the studio – what would it be?
ME I would choose to showcase the work that went into our flagship store from 2019-2021. Everything we created during this period from the products, cross-industry collaborations, events, design and content shows what we can do when we are given complete reign.
EM What are your plans for the future?
ME Our current goal is to begin to establish our studio outside of just the fashion industry and be known as a studio that can bring unique and forward-thinking ideas to life across all industries. A big goal of ours as well is to bring our ideas and skills to clients outside of New Zealand and produce work that sits globally, a testament that big ideas can come from small places.As we grow and evolve, we’d love to bring back more of our self-initiated projects that express our thinking, whether it be in the form of a temporary store, events or products.
EM What’s the creative culture like in New Zealand?
ME It’s a very close and tightly knit community. New Zealand as a country is already small and its creative scene is even smaller. Everyone tends to know each other and from our personal experiences, we’re all in it to help each other wherever possible. We’re very proud to be a part of the New Zealand creative community and we’ve loved seeing it grow and develop over the years.