Pop2Life's creative strategy team took a field trip to Brooklyn on Monday to explore the art, installations, experiences, and Instagrams inside Refinery29's annual 29Rooms. Check out our photos and thoughts from the experience below!
1. Don't let the speedy entry into the warehouse deceive you, the real lines are on the inside. 18,000 tickets sold out in advance, even before the participating artists — including Jill Soloway, the design team Chiaozza, the musical duo Chloe X Halle and the writer and social media star Cleo Wade — were announced
2. Thanks for the free wifi!
3. If you're going to make people pay to participate, then you should give them more in return. For the first time, 29Rooms required visitors to pay ($19/each) to enter. An entry fee should come with additional perks, such as free swag, especially from the brand-hosted rooms
4. South Korean artist JeeYoung Lee is a genius, who created an art installation using 4,500 plastic water bottles, 1,500 wine corks, dozens of sheets of cardboard and recycled newspapers. Fitting with the event's theme of topical relevance, the newspapers covering her boat were awash in articles about Hurricane Harvey
5. Wow, it's freezing in here
6. The environment is simple, but fitting. Held this year in an 80,000-square-foot warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 29Rooms was designed to feel like visitors were strolling through a sculpture park, allowing them to wander with no definitive path to follow
7. Let's all go home and splatter paint our white clothes to match the brand ambassadors's uniforms
8. The experience lacked a proper introduction. Whether that was a mandatory first room where all attendees watched a short video highlighting the theme, the experience, the artists, and the motivation or more prominent plaques detailing the room and its meaning — diving straight in seemed overwhelming and a bit confusing
10. Some activations didn't take full advantage of this year's theme, "Turn It Into Art." With most rooms centered on love, feminism, and expression, others, such as Casper, chose to focus more on marketing a newly launched product
11. Everyone was glued to their phones and barely connecting to the experience in front of them. We couldn't help but wonder how the experience would change if attendees had to interact with the rooms without their phones. Would it be less interesting? More interesting? Would we pick up on additional nuances?
12. Why is Jake Gyllenhaal here? Inspired by Gyllenhaal’s new film “Stronger,” the actor's room encouraged attendees to let go of what’s weighing them down by writing it on a sheet of paper then putting it through a manual shredder
13. The cathartic experiences were much needed. Attendees had the opportunity to relax and meditate in a red, cushioned, womb-like tent by artist Cleo Wade and take out some aggression in a girl power themed room filled with boxing gloves and punching bags by Madame Gandhi and Jen Mussari
14. We were transfixed by the rotating floating sculpture made of mesh wire. For a collaboration with the musical sisters Chloe X Halle, artist Benjamin Shine created an oversize sculpture of their faces, conjoined in metal that resembles tulle
15. The name 29Rooms is a bit deceiving — it was more like 29 experiences
16. Take the time to be present in each experience. The crowd, the constant selfies, and the rush of the social media share can make the true intention of the experience take a back seat
17. Each brand activation seems to have been created with the goal to be approachable and understandable
18. Sometimes, the most impactful rooms are the most simple. The "Art Heals" room was made of white paper lanterns ready to be painted and "Hear Our Voice" covered walls with posters from the Women’s March, then encouraged visitors to write their own messages to your representative on postcards
19. The timing of the event launch isn't random. Meant to counteract the stuffy, invite-only New York Fashion Week after-parties, it also ensures that the right celebrities, designers, models, and social media influencers are in town to attend... and post
20. Thank God we wore sensible flats
21. Brands should have focused on interactivity over social shares. Beyond just taking pictures, attendees were clearly craving more put-your-phone-down-and-do-something experiences with rooms such as Ulta Beauty's "The Beauty Carousal" and "Light It Up," stack of LED cubes that brought movement to life in light with motion-sensor tech, having the longest lines
22. 29Rooms proved it's the Fashion Week experience that cares by partnering with social groups like The Women's March and Planned Parenthood, but why align with non-profits without offering any charity component? A clear missed opportunity, especially with an audience like socially-conscious Millennials
23. This started as just a company party? The "first" was the publisher’s 10-year anniversary in 2015. The following year, it took things up a notch by tying it to New York Fashion Week, opening it up to the public and signing companies including Disney, Ford and Michael Kors to create branded installations
24. People watching is half the fun
25. The warehouse's open layout ensures exploration and going out of order. While the rooms were numbered, there's no reason to start with one and end with 29, instead sneak through the shortest lines first
26. The "Dreamer's Den" experience is what 29Rooms is all about. In Kat Cunning's musical debut, each visitor inside her speakeasy writes down their dream, which she then turns into a song
27. Timed ticketing could have eliminated the long lines. Instead of having hundreds of attendees swarm the warehouse all within the same three-hour window, Refinery29 would have benefitted from allowing less people in in 15-20 minute incremements to keep the lines moving faster
28. Transgender bathroom laws is a social issue that needs more artistic support
29. What was our favorite experience out of all 29? The Dunkin' Donuts Coffee At Home tasting room. Maybe it's because we're in the experiential marketing business, but Dunkin Donuts had a message, a product to promote, an interactive, artistic element, sampling, and free coffee giveaways for attendees
Want to create an experience as epic as 29Rooms for your own brand?