Last year, Sephora celebrated its 10th anniversary in Singapore by transforming Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza into a 700-sq-m pop-up ‘playhouse’. Open for 10 days, the event was the first of its kind for the global beauty company. With the help of local design studio Kingsmen, it built an immersive world with nine unique ‘beauty-verses’ from successful brands sold at the stores. Companies looking for ways to fill customers’ purses with social media currency: pay close attention.

Sephora Playhouse visitors entered the space via a striped pathway lined with super-sized lip-creams, then through a 3D pair of lips. The following opportunities for engagement were endless. Benefit flaunted a bubble-gum pink ice cream parlour with inflatable flamingos, neon lights and pay phones while Urban Decay presented a super-sized palette with trampolines for colour tiles. Fenty Beauty’s Moroccan Spice Eyeshadow palette was turned into a mosaic art installation, a peachy sculpture was built for Too Faced and the Tarte-verse offered up a sea-inspired ball pit. Kat Von D, Estée Lauder and Fresh Beauty were among the other brands to have a presence.

Aside from the beauty spaces, visitors also had the chance to engage in exclusive workshops and meet-and-greet sessions with make-up artists. A DJ spun tunes in front a huge neon rainbow while visitors registered for giveaways and drafted their hashtags. The experience was free, with only a couple of rules: reservations were necessary, and so was downloading the Sephora app.

Kingsmen described the overall atmosphere as ‘carnival-esque’. And indeed, that could not be a more apt description. The point was to stimulate customers from all directions, ‘activating space, brand and product all together.’ Sephora is certainly not the first company to do so; Nickelodeon employed a similar strategy for its Slime City pop-up. But the extravagant playhouse showed that these sort of gimmick-filled experiences continue to be effective – consumers don’t only want to have a little fun, they very much expect it from the brands they buy into.

Sephora Playhouse has been submitted to the spatial design competition of the year – Frame Awards 2020 – for the distinction of Exhibition of the Year. Stay tuned on the project’s progress or submit your own best work for consideration here.