An exquisite construction
Designed by Joerg Schwartz, Yeohlee Teng's headquarters in New York looks as architectural as her clothing
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Her garments may appear in Robert Mapplethorpe photographs and the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, but don't expect fashion drama from Yeohlee Teng. The Malaysian-born Manhattanite has made her Yeohlee label a byword for practicality as well as modern elegance. One-size-fits-all Alpaca coats can also serve as blankets; Teflon adds stain resistance to cotton dresses. Emphasizing construction and materials, she calls her clothing "intimate architecture." Museum of Modern Art architecture and design curator Paola Antonelli concurs. Considering one of Teng's dress patterns in an essay for Yeohlee: Work, due out this summer, Antonelli asks: "What is the difference between one of her patterns and an architectural blueprint?"
Teng draws a connection between her fashion sense and the aesthetic of her new offices and showroom—the work of Joerg Schwartz, a German-born architect who is also her partner in life. "The space is quite inspiring to me because it's designed the same way my clothing is," Teng explains. "It's lean, functional—and multifunctional."
"We used the minimum of materials while building in as much flexibility as possible," Schwartz says of the 4,000-square-foot space, which occupies the entire 16th floor of a 1924 garment-district tower. The actual showroom takes up only 1,250 square feet; the rest of the floor houses offices and the sample room, where prototypes are made.
In keeping with Teng's multipurpose inclinations, Schwartz left the space mostly raw to accommodate the steady stream of fashion buyers, model castings, and spring and fall runway shows. In lieu of partitions, he designed a number of three-sided MDF enclosures set on castors. Roll these mobile units together, and they screen off separate meeting areas as well as changing areas for fit models. Roll the units away, and the space is instantly runway-ready. Regardless of position, the enclosures are always equipped to display the current season's collection.
Presenting the clothes is, of course, only the last step of a lengthy process. "Yeohlee is a master craftsman, so her space had to have the sense of a workshop," says Schwartz. "The showroom is an extension of the sample room." To indicate its importance, Schwartz painted the sample room and offices' perimeter wall hibiscus red to create what he calls a "red box" within the overall white box. He also pitched the red wall at the top, creating an awninglike plane that shelters the adjacent circulation corridor. This visual shelter reference further suggests the idea of the showroom as being "outside"—an impression reinforced by the north-facing terrace and extensive glazing opposite. And since the top portion of the red wall is angled upward, it doesn't get in the way of camera shots during runway presentations.
Teng enjoys pointing out features that would appeal to any design junkie. "Little unexpected details really enchant and engage me," she says. "The long fluorescent fixtures are just standard ones placed upside down, but Joerg had holes punched in them to provide a decorative touch as well as light."
The circulation corridor along the red wall is divided from the showroom by off-white polyester honeycomb shades suspended between columns. Simply raising the shades allows the corridor to be absorbed into the showroom, but their bottom-up, top-down mechanism offers additional intermediate options—and encourages a favorite pastime among fashionistas. "You can start the shades at knee height," jokes Schwartz. "That way, buyers sitting in the showroom can't tell who's walking by, but they can see who's wearing expensive shoes."