Jim Shi -- Interior Design, 9/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
firm:kazuyo sejima + ryue nishizawa/sanaa
Derek Lam's fantasy is to live in an RV. So when it came time for the young fashion designer to realize the first of what he hopes will be many boutiques, he asked Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA for an architectural language that would travel well, starting in SoHo. Kazuyo Sejima describes the concept as "respecting the character of a given site while also projecting a unique atmosphere for the brand. Sejima has been a devotee of Lam's luxe sportswear since its 2003 debut. And the passion is mutual. As Lam puts it, "SANAA works with function and also an element of human scale and touch."
But that's not all. Sejima likens the Derek Lam boutique to the neighboring New Museum of Contemporary Art, the architects' first New York project. Both, she says, share a "roughness" unique to downtown.
Nishizawa adds, "Right now, we have an interest in free shapes. This project is meant to feel lighter by virtue of its playfulness." Sejima continues, "The customers should feel both intimacy and openness in the store. The clothing is light, and the surroundings should be lighter still." Almost as light, perhaps, as the cloudlike aluminum pavilion that London's Serpentine Gallery commissioned from SANAA for summer 2009.
To achieve that lightness, the open plan is loosely divided into four areas by sweeping, full-height curves of clear acrylic, built from panels trucked cross-country from Las Vegas. The customer, Lam explains, should "feel like she's going through different rooms and discovering what I do." Another effect of the acrylic is to distill the natural and halogen light into an overall milkiness. Sejima points out how the light bounces from one transparent enclosure to the next.
SANAA is certainly familiar with acrylic, having used the versatile, portable resin in temporary projects in the past. "People really interact with it," Sejima says. It's difficult not to, what with the boutique's 3,300 square feet of the 1-inch-thick material—the same used for aquariums, not just the figurative fishbowls here. Complementing the dividers, as they snake their way through the space, are original brick walls, now painted white, and a newly poured concrete floor.
Contrasting with those simple, almost industrial materials is yard after yard of what looks like draped gold lamé but is actually metallic plastic, thin strips of it woven into supple curtains. They can be drawn around the inside of the sales floor's rearmost acrylic enlosure when Lam is hosting private events there. And the same curtains maintain the overall air of translucence while ensuring the privacy of two fitting rooms—spaces that are an afterthought in many other stores.
In the largest fitting room, a leggy chair in shiny brass is among the boutique's custom accent pieces. They also include benches with cushions covered in straw-colored velvet, a display table with a chunky mahogany top, and the slim stainless-steel racks and stands. The only non-SANAA designs are two vintage Michael Thonet—style side chairs and a Patricia Urquiola lounge chair with a woven leather seat. But they, too, complement Lam's fall 2009 collection, inspired by Yves Saint Laurent's 1980's Paris apartment as well as the Jeanne Moreau character and Miles Davis sound track of Louis Malle's 1958 film, Ascenseur Pour l'Echafaud. Mixing movie metaphors, a black-and-white portrait of Marlene Dietrich hangs discreetly in the shoe salon, Lam's favorite corner.
He adds that the boutique's location, on an unusual cul-de-sac, is his favorite in the city. So much so that he leased two upper floors in the same cast-iron building to house his office and design studio.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
PRODUCT SOURCESFROM FRONT WINONA LIGHTING: CUSTOM LAMPS (SPECIAL COLLECTION, FITTING ROOM). LARSEN: BENCH FABRIC (SHOES). GRATZ INDUSTRIES: CUSTOM MIRROR (FITTING ROOM). HH STYLE: CUSTOM CHAIR. MOROSO: CHAIR (SALES FLOOR). THROUGHOUT WOLF FORM COMPANY: CUSTOM MANNEQUINS. USA ILLUMINATION: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES. ACRYLIC TANK MANUFACTURING: CUSTOM DIVIDERS. SHADING SYSTEMS: CURTAIN PLASTIC. SHERWIN-WILLIAMS COMPANY: PAINT. TOSHIHIRO OKI, ARCHITECT: ARCHITECT OF RECORD. TILLOTSON DESIGN ASSOCIATES: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. WILLIAM VITACCO ASSOCIATES: CODE CONSULTANT. PATRICK WALSH: AUDIOVISUAL CONSULTANT. ANGELOS GEORGOPOULOS: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. PLUS GROUP: MEP. DISEMO: WOODWORK, CUSTOM FURNITURE. DIVISION: METALWORK, CUSTOM DISPLAY FIXTURES. MG & COMPANY: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.