Kelvin Ho

You may not be familiar with his name, but there’s a good chance you’ve experienced his work


Sass & Bide’s signature curved steel and glass storefront? Kelvin’s design. Dion Lee’s latest store, all space-age style high gloss, neon and mirrors? That’s Kelvin’s too.


With the interiors of over 50 boutiques, reading like a who’s who of Australian fashion (Nudie Jeans, Willow, Fleur Wood and Bassike to name a few) under his belt, it seems only right to dub Kelvin one of the fashion industry’s premier retail architects. But it’s not a title that sits well with the guy who grew up wanting to build boats, like his father.

You’re considered one of the fashion industry’s premier retail architects. How do you feel about that position?

I feel slightly awkward about the role, as it wasn’t one that I set out to achieve. Retail, fashion, consumerism and brands have always been interests of mine and after working in residential architecture for a long time, I was approached by some important fashion retailers that wanted a fresh look. I guess a certain naivety and open mind was my best asset, as I had no preconceptions on what retail design ‘best practice’ was. This allowed me to purely focus on the brands I worked with, and how to extract the best bespoke outcomes.

What has influenced your design approach and how has it evolved over time?

There are the natural influences of art, music and travel. However, I feel the biggest influence has been the Internet. In response to the amazing speed, precision and reach of the internet, I like to create spaces that are slower, and that allow your eye to wander and find the unexpected; for things to be more tactile, visceral and engaging. I am constantly trying to create something that you can’t experience online.


You have worked with some incredible brands (like designing 21 stores for Sass and Bide), how do you capture a brand’s essence?

I ask a lot of questions initially to make sure I understand the brand. Once I have my head in that brand, I set out to create a space that both represents the brand, yet also challenges the customer to understand the brand in a new way.

Can you describe your own personal space?

1. Simple. I am not a fan of decoration. I like my personal spaces to be both utilitarian and understated.

2. Curated. I collect art and furniture. I lived without a sofa for five years until I found the perfect one.

3. Light. I need to be surrounded by natural light that can bounce around the space. I love a room that transforms purely by the changing light and shadows.


What is the best advice you have ever received?

Not to take anything too seriously. Have a thick skin. Keep moving.

What is inspiring and influencing you right now? What design trends should we expect for 2015?

Live shows. I have been going to a lot of live shows recently – music and ballet in particular. It’s refreshing to see a creative performance without the burden or mask of post-production, filters or Photoshop. I also love that the performance is by people that have been crafting their skills for a lifetime. It has a rawness and purity that is hard to achieve in architecture.


Images courtesy of Akin Creative


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