First KOHLER Experience Center in Southeast Asia
The typical showroom experience can be overwhelming. KOHLER hopes to be instantly inspiring.
September 27, 2017
Written by Judith Torres
Photos courtesy of KOHLER
Singapore, 31 Aug 2017 — What can one experience at a Kohler Experience Center? Well, for one, you can actually bathe in the fully functioning displays—a first for the Kohler brand and the industry. Not that any of the guests or press at the launch of the Kohler Experience Center in Singapore actually got in a shower stall to try, for example, Real Rain. Real Rain, I was told, is “a remarkable showering experience that has the power to transport the bather to the center of a summer rainstorm.”
I sadly also didn’t try the DTV+ digital showering system. How could I, when I had a press kit tucked in my armpit, a gift bag in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other, and no place to put them down?
The Kohler Experience Center was packed, and Kohler staff were diligently shepherding groups of guests from one display to the next. Resisting the shuffling herd, I picked the displays with attendants who were unoccupied so they might answer questions to my satisfaction. These attendants were exceptionally long-legged, exotic looking, and dressed in bathrobes, but they couldn’t offer any product information, just canapés, which, it turns out, was their job for the evening.
INTERACT WITH DISPLAYS
One stall had steamy water spraying out of the showerhead. As I moved closer to check out the touchscreen interface, a regular-sized lady materialized out of nowhere to inform me the touchscreen could control lights, music, temperature, flow rate, and flow pattern to create a genuine multi-sensory showering experience.
She had to raise her voice quite a bit to be heard over the din of dozens of people ooh-ing and ah-ing. When she mimed opening the door, presumably for me to partake even just a little of the multi-sensory experience, I mimed back that I wasn’t that crazy and maybe the demonstration would be better suited to the exotic woman in the bathrobe across the room.
GET WILD, WILD WET
If it’s immersive experiences you want, the Kohler Experience Center offers them, literally. Like the VibrAcoustic hydrotherapy, a unique, state-of-the-art bathtub that blends music vibrations with water for a bathing experience like no other. Check this out:
TAKE EXPERT ADVICE
One of the most valuable things you can do at a Kohler Experience Center.
“From a plumbing perspective, what works in Milan is acutely different from what would work in Dubai or Shanghai,” says Larry Yuen, Kohler Co. president of the global Kitchen & Bath Group. He adds: “Navigating codes and standards for different global markets can be a challenging process, but our on-site Kohler global experts will be able to guide customers through the process.”
Kohler does have a dedicated sales force in each market to support architects, designers, and building owners throughout the specification process. The Kohler Experience Center provides a home base for one-on-one consultations with Kohler experts.
“Our goal with the KEC is to provide design professionals with both the ability to source and resolve all plumbing needs on a global scale from any KEC location,” says Yuen.
Designers are always on the go, so each Kohler Experience Center is equipped with workspace, meeting rooms, video conferencing, and multiple screen projection. Designers can collaborate one on one with Kohler product experts anywhere in the world and conference with colleagues and clients.
ACCESS KOHLER’S GLOBAL OFFERING
TheKohler Experience Center provides access to the full range for Kohler’s global core offering. Now that can be intimidating because Kohler never gets rid of a collection or design. Products that Kohler offered 10 or 20 years ago—or even in the 1950s, are still in their inventory in the quaint little town of Kohler in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA!
You can check all those designs out at the state-of-the-art library in each Kohler Experience Center.
ELIMINATE THE CHAOS OF CHOICE
With access to the full breadth of Kohler’s global products, the multitude of choices can be overwhelming. TheKohler Experience Center streamlines the shopping and specification experience for both consumers and design professionals with a new Kohler global specification service.
A roomy gallery space anchors the entrance area with a series of photographs, interactive media walls, and artifacts depicting Kohler’s history.
The laser-cut batik panels and Peranakan-inspired floor tiles at the Singapore Kohler Experience Center are faithful to its context and contribute to the showroom’s sense of place. The same principle of “sense of place” applies across all KECs, with Indian textiles and patterns used in the New Delhi KEC, as another example.
The themed displays help clients decide what they want. At the Kohler Experience Center in Singapore, five suites reflect the following themes: fashion, high-technology, family, classic, and shades of black.
Kohler is actually known in art circles for its artist-in-residence program. Every year, the company sponsors the residence and stipend of artists in the town of Kohler in Wisconsin. The artists are free to experiment with Kohler factory equipment, such as steel forges and ceramic kilns, to create art. The company asks only one thing of the artists: that they donate one work of art to Kohler’s growing collection.
Each Kohler Experience Center will exhibit art pieces and sculptures from the permanent collection of Kohler Co.
Truth to tell, when I visited the Kohler Experience Center Singapore on the morning of its opening, I didn’t think they would make it on time. The 795-square meter KEC is housed in a historical three-storey shophouse on Peck Seah Street in Tanjong Pagar. Because Kohler chose a shophouse listed for conservation, the designers, LTW Designworks, were constrained by numerous guidelines intended to safeguard the integrity of the structure and its heritage design.
When I dropped by the shophouse, open crates and packaging material littered the floor, the noise of carpentry work was everywhere, and I could smell varnish. Marketing and Sales bosses and staff from Kohler Philippines who had flown in to do strat-planning with their counterparts in the region were all in work clothes, apparently helping the Singapore team mount the displays. Marketing and sales teams from other countries were helping out as well.
Amazingly, they finished the showroom with time to spare after changing into dapper suits and ties for the evening. Everything was in its proper place, with nary a knob askew.
The highlight of the event was a two-minute light projection show. All the guests were asked to come outside the shophouse, onto which the Kohler team projected moving images telling the brand’s story.
Here’s what it looked like:
ONE LAST THING
You can gawk at photos of dashing CEO David Kohler when he’s not around for you to gawk at in person. He’s been traveling a lot lately, visiting every Kohler Experience Center that opens.
The first three to open were in New York, London, and New Delhi, which launched earlier in 2017. KECs in Taipei, Bangkok, and Singapore followed in August. Opening soon are the KECs in Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Toronto, and Dubai.