Like oh so many good things, Middle West's relationship with Ashley and Mali of AM Yoga began on the cold concrete floor of Michigan House//ArtPrize. Over the 18 day run, they taught a dozen classes in our space (including a 6 am class that served as the backdrop for a local morning news show), played guest bartenders a couple nights, and threw one of the bigger shindigs the House had the pleasure of hosting. That's the stuff of long term friendships, and the last two years have seen them become enormous influences on all of us physically, spiritually, and in how we drink our tequila. So when they approached us this past summer about improvements to their retail area, we jumped at the chance to help them out.
AM Yoga moved into their studio in the spring of 2016. Prior to that Ash & Mali had developed an incredibly loyal following of students (and teachers) by taking their practice everywhere and anywhere. Art museums, judo studios, rooftops, brewery floors, public parks, Ashley's living room, AM Yoga created a community without walls and those "people first" values remain palpable now that they have their own address. That peripatetic (y'all have no idea how happy getting to use that word makes me) past also means that collaboration is embedded in their DNA. They use their studio as a gallery space. They host events. And they still take their show on the road a number of times a week.
Into this dynamic mix comes one of the biggest names in yoga: lululemon. AM has long held classes at the local lulu store and has been official lulu ambassadors for a number of years. This past spring, though, they were approached with an offer they couldn’t pass up: AM Yoga could be the first independent studio in Michigan licensed to carry and co-brand lululemon gear.
How though do you design a retail space that provides the finish and polish necessary to display a brand of lululemon's caliber while also staying true to AM Yoga's community and values? That was the challenge they brought to us this summer and was the challenge that we (and let's be honest this was mostly a Peter Jacob joint) realized spoke directly to so many of the lessons we'd learned over the last few years.
Peter started (just like AM did) with the people. He knew that this was an opportunity to affect the flow and functionality of the entire space, so he spent time with the teachers, he talked to members, and he watched the movement in and around the studio. It quickly became obvious that rather than typical shelves or display fixtures, the space needed to remain open and airy. He also realized that the scale of entirety of the studio meant that it'd be all too easy for the retail area to become an after-thought. To give it the necessary spacial heft while still leaving room for movement he decided he needed to go up.
With the help of a couple badass local craftsmen (shout out Max VanderWerff and John Warner) and the design wizardry of our friend, Dana Jackson - Peter designed a layout that is at once versatile and thoughtful, eye-catching and free flowing. You're drawn to it when you walk in the door, but it doesn't disrupt everyday routines. It mixes materials and sight-lines, and it imposes shape into a room that at times seems cavernous. It somehow feels like it could have been there from day one, yet we have to admit we get a little giddy every time we walk in and catch a glance.
That's probably more than enough of our gushing. All said, we're quite proud of the work Peter was able to do. He brought hospitality thinking and user behavior to his design concepts, and was able to find that just right place between form and function.
We hope it stands in as small bit of thanks for everything Mali, Ashley, and the whole AM Yoga Team have done for us over the years. They've built this dynamic community that's big enough for lululemon but still close enough to mean something real to each member of our team.
All the love in world to you, AM Yoga. Namaste, indeed.