Tokyo designer Oki Sato raises the bar with the BbyB chocolate boutique and cafe in Ginza.
Words Iris Wong Photos Daici Ano
*Featured in Crave’s Issue 80, February 2017
When it comes to chocolates, Ginza has it all. From luxury brand chocolatiers such as Bulgari Il Café to myriad big-name European chocolate boutiques such as Pierre Marcolini, La Maison du Chocolat, Lindt Chocolat Café and Godiva, there is no shortage of places for Tokyoites and tourists to get their cocoa fix. In this environment, it takes more than great confectionery to stand out. BbyB Ginza does exactly that with an ingenious, sci-fi interior by world-renowned Japanese design studio Nendo.
The brainchild of two-Michelin-starred Belgian chef Bart Desmidt and veteran chocolatier Jan Verleye, BbyB opened its first store in Bruges in 2010. The brandis a culinary exploration of Desmidt’s love for babelutte, a creamy caramel created by fishermen from Heist, where Desmidt’s Bartholomeus restaurant is located. The Ginza store and cafe is its first overseas venture.
Nendo’s chief designer Oki Sato, named designer of the year 2015 by French interiors show Maison & Objet, took inspiration for the retail space and cafe from BbyB’s iconic packaging.
Running along the centre of the 780 sq ft space is a transparent acrylic display case where boxes of chocolate, organised in grids by colour like paint swatches, seemingly “float” in mid-air. As customers slide out the drawers to discover more than 20 praline flavours such as babelutte and sea salt, star anise and honey, and passion fruit and basil, they replicate the motion of removing a piece of praline from the chocolate packaging.
“Because the chocolates are all the same shape, the packaging is modular: five bars of chocolate slot neatly into each sliding box, and five boxes slot together into a cube,” says Sato. “Following this logic, we turned the shop space into a three-dimensional version of the chocolate packaging.”
Behind the “magical chest of drawers” is a tiled white wall also embossed with the BbyB chocolate box design. Not only are the “tiles” functional drawers, the stark contrast between the colourful boxes and the sleek white wall ensures the products are loud and proud at centre stage in the fluid, memorable interior.
Deeper in the shop, a glass door separates the retail space and cafe. The marbled floor and monochromatic walls and ceiling are inverted to be completely black. The shop display surface extends into the cafe to form a bar table lined with chrome bar stools. Seating six people comfortably, the cafe is a quiet respite from Ginza’s tireless shoppers where customers can savour the signature BbyB babelutte ice cream, Vascobelo coffee and Flemish waffles.
“The design creates a seamless transition between the shop space, the packaging and the act of eating the chocolates, offering an organic, compelling experience,” Sato says. It’s hard for an overseas brand to stay afloat in a country where consumers are spoilt for choice, but it looks like BbyB. Ginza is here to stay – with unwavering confidence.