Modeled After Dior
Robin Elmslie Osler picks a fabulous fabric used by the French couturier and dramatically reinvents it for New York Model Management.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 4/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
ROBIN ELMSLIE OSLER aims high in her pursuit of creative inspiration. For a model agency shown in our fashion issue last year, she looked to selected works by three renowned artists—Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Irwin, and the late Joseph Beuys—to shape her vision. For the New York Model Management project shown here, her influence came from the world of fashion. Specifically, she recalled seeing a stunningly beautiful moss-green coat by Christian Dior, exhibited by the Costume Institute of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The couturier's choice was silk taffeta; the designer-specified derivative for present-day use is plastic. Nonetheless, the synthetic option reflects, literally, the same sort of subdued sheen, sense of tri-dimensionality, and chameleon-like color changeability that characterized the 1947 prototype. All of which helps to explain how it happened that a green-tinted iridescent lenticular material became the focal element of New York Model Management in Soho.
Osler's determination to find an exceptionally arresting substance was not, one should add, a matter of whim. It was, to her, an aesthetic necessity, arising from her conviction that the space's 52-ft.-long background wall needed a dramatic injection making a strong statement. As applied in the 2,500-sq.-ft. premises, formerly occupied by a gallery, the spectacular covering—its appeal intensified by constant variances in chromatics and texturing, actuated in synchronization with the viewer's head motions—shows that her quest was successfully met. She sees a symbolic tie as well: the wall covering, she says, is "the very cloth of fashion," illustrating also "the dynamism of the [modeling] industry." The plastic alludes to modernity. But what she neglects to mention is that the making of all this magic was far from easy. The synthetic product comes in 11-in.-by-17-in. pieces, each with uneven edging needing careful adjustment for precise wall gluing. Just try it.
Preparatory rehabilitation involved removal of some partitions and leveling of the old oak-strip floor to create a smooth substratum for laying deep blue-gray vinyl. Space allocations called for a large entry/reception/lounge area, partially screened with perforated polycarbonate honeycomb panels. Overhead, a squared field of backlit corrugated fiberglass reinforces the perception of spatial identity. Most interior zones are freed of structural obstructions blocking sight lines. As a result, says Osler, just about everyone can keep track of what's going on all around.
Similarly unconfined is the use of the heralded wall cover. Predominant in the booking room, it also forms the backdrop for colorful Danish lounge furniture, chosen for comfort and convenience. During interviews in the anteroom, for example, two small tables might be pushed together to support models' portfolios; other times, says the designer, the place is favored simply for hanging out. In a supportive yet again eye-catching role, the lenticular element appears behind displays of models' composite cards, those graphic résumé/reference papers needed to open doors to clients. Upholding the cards are acrylic shelves held together with screws and washers; fishing lines are strung and wrapped around the fasteners so as to form near-invisible guard rails that keep the displayed materials from tipping and toppling. In their static state, they look as if they were afloat.
At the booking room's center is a large brought-along desk with recessed computers and keyboards. Up-lights here circumvent glare. Also inviting attention are a high-back bench upholstered with automotive vinyl; reception desk resurfaced with glossy white laminate; and, in the art department, a long custom light fixture holding fluorescent tubes in a bracket-held enclosure of polycarbonate.
Shared credit goes to project coordinator Oliver Link and assistant Holly Sumner. Work time spanned five months.