Gorman Highpoint

November 6, 2013

Travis Walton transforms the distinctive pattern and geometry of fashion label, Gorman, into built form to create a rich, timber-wrapped store at Melbourne’s Highpoint shopping centre.

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Projects including:
  • Gazi, by March Studio
  • Tonka, by Techne Architects
  • Gorman, by Travis Walton
  • Mahani, by Studio Toogood
Features including:
  • Exhibition review: Faultlines
  • Initiative: Louis Vuitton artist collaborations
  • Interview with Alison Page, founder and creative director of the National Aboriginal Design Agency
  • Talking shop: An interview with Russell & George
  • Future retail: a conversation with The Future Laboratory
  • In profile: Scholten & Baijings
  • Practice: DesignOffice
  • In profile: Chris Hardy, the complete IDEA shortlist.

Completed in early 2013 for Melbourne fashion label, Gorman, this sculptural interior crafted from warm, syrupy timber has been designed by architecture and interiors firm, Travis Walton. Located on the third floor of the recent extension to Maribyrnong’s Highpoint shopping centre, a new $300 million addition that serves the growing population of Melbourne’s western suburbs, the fitout is the first shopping centre-based store the firm has completed for Lisa Gorman’s brand. However, it builds on the ongoing partnership between the two; Travis Walton has worked across a number of refurbishments for the label, and its own studio in South Yarra is located directly above the Chapel Street store.

At Highpoint, Travis Walton has succeeded in producing a meticulously detailed, distinctive interior for the much loved Melbourne-based boutique fashion label. Since its launch in 1999, Gorman has won hearts with its collections of whimsical prints and knitwear, distinctive colour palette and, more recently, the introduction of an organic collection. In this fitout, Travis Walton’s studio has encapsulated the Gorman philosophy – “thoroughly modern and inspired by the everyday” – combining a liberal use of timber with accents of copper, steel and stone to produce a space that is at once striking in its bold visual identity, yet also accessible and inviting.

The architectural form of the Highpoint store draws on the geometry and pattern that characterises the Gorman aesthetic.

The architectural form of the Highpoint store draws on the geometry and pattern that characterises the Gorman aesthetic.


At the entrance to the store, an angled entry with a gentle slope invites shoppers in from the main street of the shopping centre. Two large windows on either side of the doorway offer plentiful space for display. These tall, steel-framed windows have been delicately edged in timber and, together with the two full-height messmate doors, they hint at the materiality and craft that lies beyond.

At Highpoint, the 8.5-metre wide space is more generous than the typically long and narrow shopping centre tenancy, delivering an empty shell that is squarer in plan. “It allows you to do something quite interesting in the middle ground,” explains studio founder and director, Travis Walton. Freestanding furniture and display objects appear almost residential in aesthetic, with tables, stools and a curving ottoman helping to establish a welcoming environment – a “play zone,” Walton explains, with plenty of free space that is easily reconfigured.

The liberal use of timber produces a space that is striking and bold, yet inviting.

The liberal use of timber produces a space that is striking and bold, yet accessible.


Of their early concept work on the project, Walton says the studio sought to find “a single expression of an idea that could become a place maker for the brand”. Timber was an obvious material choice: its strong aesthetic offered continuity from the previous stores, designed by Nest Architects, and the use of recycled messmate is also in keeping with Gorman’s ethos for environmentally considerate design. With this in mind, the studio started exploring architectural ideas that were akin to Gorman’s existing brand identity, yet also particular to its setting at Highpoint.

The wider floorplan opened the door to the conceptual framework that has informed the design of the interior. “We were looking at how we could express the Gorman brand within the shopping centre,” explains Walton. “We took this idea of pattern and geometry that is prevalent in their fabrics and started looking at how that might inform our floorplan.” The bold and whimsical patterns that are characteristic of the Gorman brand have been translated into built form as a triangular motif in the shape of a dramatic zigzagging wall and ceiling, constructed from messmate timber.


Furniture pieces such as the ottoman and vintage table help to create an inviting area at the front of the store.

This angular form has become the store’s visual marker – and is articulated in both plan and form. The bays created on the reverse side of the wall function as private cocoons in which to place the store’s changing rooms, while in the main store, the niches create smaller pockets in which to display a smaller selection of clothes. On the ceiling plane, the timber peaks help to break down the standardised format of the shopping centre tenancy and frame the central zone of the store, drawing customers in to the visually intriguing space. LED spotlights and strip lighting (concealed in the ceiling) have been used to accentuate the jagged edges of the design, while on the floor, limed oak parquetry reiterates the pattern, this time expressing it as a two-dimensional tessellated surface.

The spatial organisation of the Gorman fitout is geared to provide a rich and varied experience for the customer. Unencumbered by clunky fittings, the interior feels spacious and affords shoppers plenty of opportunity to amble through the space rather than following a rigid plan. Copper rails arranged at different heights, wall-mounted timber shelves and freestanding ladder shelves attract the customers’ eyes as the walk in different directions through the store.

The zigzagging rear wall and sculptural ceiling, crafted from Messmate timber, create a strong presence for the brand within the context of the shopping centre.

The zigzagging rear wall and sculptural ceiling, crafted from Messmate timber, create a strong presence for the brand within the context of the shopping centre.


Striking a difficult balance between creating a distinctive in-store experience, yet also delivering a space that is adaptable enough to appear visually different for returning customers, the store is equipped with a range of custom-designed furniture and display pieces designed for Gorman by the studio. Walton talks about the process of establishing a strong infrastructure, or shell, for a brand that can then be changed over time – and the importance of creating a great working environment for the retail staff to work in and take ownership of. To this end, the moveable display elements ensure the space can be easily reconfigured as the store is refreshed with new product and also introduce a custom-feel to the space, which becomes particularly important for a smaller brand in the context of a major shopping centre.

A noteworthy addition to these custom-made display elements is the series of low timber stools in an assortment of sizes that populate the front window. Milled locally from fallen cedar logs, the stools are ideally sized for shoe display, but may also function as seating. Grouped together, their different heights and profiles appear as chess pieces ready to be moved around the floor – a whimsical complement to the idea of the shop floor as play zone.

Clothing rails constructed from copper piping adorn the side walls.

Clothing rails constructed from copper piping adorn the side walls.


Through their ongoing dialogue and collaboration with Gorman, Travis Walton has made a brand’s distinctive personality manifest in built space. Characteristic of the studio, the project demonstrates a deft handling of materials coupled with the painstaking process of refining the finer details. “For us, using materials in new ways is a really exciting part of the process,” Walton says. “We’re trying to maintain a focus on the program and process of design, and material innovation is a crucial part of that process. It’s the detail that we love, and that we are always working to resolve.”

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