Diane von Furstenberg celebrates her re-emergence on the fashion scene with a shop designed by BE Partners and Bill Katz.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 10/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
For those too young to have tried Diane von Furstenberg's jersey wrap dress, created in the '70s for Park Avenue princesses and working girls alike, fear not. A new generation of hipsters has a second chance as von Furstenberg returns with startling panache. Her collections, with a full quota of sportswear in addition to the reinterpreted wrap, share headlines with the best of the fashion pack. The clothing is showcased in a shimmering, far West Village shop, which includes an adjoining event space for performances, catwalk shows, and art installations. And then there's her personal profile as a glamour and society icon for some three decades.
Debra Post and Bill Katz designed von Furstenberg's new shop two years after the fashion designer reinvented her wholesale operation. Post, principal of BE Partners, came to the project well-versed in retail design having worked for Donna Karan and Lancôme. Katz's focus is residential, but he has a long history with von Furstenberg, who actively participated in the design process.
Together, the retail and event spaces encompass 2,700 sq. ft. in a structure that von Furstenberg had commissioned architect John Reimitz to build abutting the carriage house that serves as her design studio and private residence. Brick-faced with black steel frames for doors and windows, the reticent structure fits the tenor of the neighborhood in terms of color and scale. But the interior makes a dramatic departure. Lively details and elements of modern luxury punctuate a white backdrop suited for the colorful, patterned clothing. "Hollywood glamour," Post recounts, was part of the design brief. A minimalist box was not.
"Diane had recently returned from a trip to India and was taken with the carved plaster and glass mosaic details she had seen in many exotic palaces," Post says of the scheme's genesis. "For inspiration, she showed us a video she had made." Translated from digital format to reality, the imagery is the signature element of the compact 700-sq.-ft. sales space. The designers' interpretation formed the basis for the wall and ceiling treatment—a seamless curve of plaster punctured with tiny apertures in random configuration. Some of the holes are filled with four-in. mirror disks, cleverly taken from cosmetic compacts; others are fit with halogen lamps. The reference to the subcontinent is there, but so is a similarity between the lighting scheme and luminous stars in the (fashion) firmament. Either analogy seems appropriate.
Square footage determined the fixture solution. With floor clutter unthinkable, the designers left the center free and relied on walls to anchor shelving and hang-bars. The custom items are of sandblasted acrylic, deemed "more interesting than metal or wood." The material is also used as bases for hinged, glass-topped vitrines that sit below each hang-bar. Lit from behind with fluorescent strips, these glowing units showcase either accessories from a growing collection or prized purchases from von Furstenberg's travels.
The sole interruption to the floorplate is a pair of dressing rooms at the center of the space, hiding a clunky steel I-beam within the framework of a three-way dividing mirror. Dressing chambers are then enclosed in a circle of ceiling-hung white-on-white silk draperies. The result is a dreamy tent effect that, along with a fuchsia sofa and mirrored sales table and chair, goes a long way toward conveying the desired image. "It's graphic, soft, and feminine," according to Post.
Displays of logos and branding devices enter tricky territory. One day their shameless flaunting is de rigueur; the next day that same show is hopelessly passé. Here, von Furstenberg's dot logo is deployed on sandblasted-glass pivot doors that separate the retail and event spaces. Seemingly a continuation of the wall motif, the initials can be read equally as an abstract pattern or individual letters, which repeat as shadow play on adjacent walls.
Post shares credit with Kurt Andernach and Vera Nedilko of BE Partners. The project was completed in 24 weeks.