«Santa Eulalia, a 170 year long history»
Santa Eulalia 1843 is possibly the oldest shop in Spain, certainly the oldest in Barcelona, with a history spanning 170 years. We meet Luis Sans on a December morning boasting the light and the colours that have always made Catalonia unique. Luis begins his story: “We have been on Paseo de Gracia since 1944 and the building we now find ourselves in was completely destroyed and rebuilt. The plan was to create a shop that was new and unique but which in some way drew on our history, our heritage. That’s why we decided to recover objects, furniture, designs and materials from all the shops we have had over the years. It was almost an anthropological operation. A risky choice mixing up the old and the new, different styles. Risky but intriguing. We think the result is interesting, and at the very least different.”
Comfortable, welcoming, familiar: these are the words to describe the atmosphere that greets every customer, making everyone feel at home. The café restaurant and the terrace garden further extend the Santa Eulalia experience by a few moments, suggesting a relaxed approach to shopping.
To design a space that is so well-structured, so imposing and so forward-looking was no simple task. Luis explains that his inspiration did not come from a specific, pre-existing model. Many people have said that the new space reminds them of the grandeur of Barney’s New York and Bergdorf Goodman, and that kind of retail space was undoubtedly one point of reference. But there are also allusions to 1920s New York in the choice of materials like distressed copper and steel as well as the details on some of the ceilings. Not forgetting homages to the great architects of the past. All of which contributes to the character of the shop. The result is a small, high-quality department store with plenty of personality and a very clear direction.
Luis continues: “This was a project that opened the door to an international clientele, although two thirds of our customers are still Spanish. We like to think of ourselves as innovators, we want to reflect our vision to the world: a local vision with global aspirations. The link with the city of Barcelona is certainly very strong and has always been explicitly stated. We were founded in the city 170 years ago, our family came on board in 1873, and our name Santa Eulalia is a tribute to the city’s patron saint. The first high fashion show seen in this city was organised by my family in 1926, a show with a musical accompaniment on the piano: a completely new idea at the time. We were the first to bring this new and unfamiliar way of presenting fashion to Barcelona. We have an entrepreneurial history that goes back generations, and when you run a shop like Santa Eulalia, you don’t really feel like the owner but rather just one link in a chain, the overseer and guardian for a period that you hope will leave its mark. Santa Eulalia is no longer just a shop to buy from, it’s a place to visit. Everything you find here is chosen personally by me and my wife and corresponds to who we are. For us, Santa Eulalia is not simply a shop, it’s a project with associations to the past and an eye to the future, and our goal is to suggest a certain style. What we’re looking for is a tone, a way of thinking, a way of doing things.”
A graduate in Industrial Design from the Politecnico di Milano, he works in visual design and photography. He currently operates freelance in Milan and Barcelona.