Christophe Carpente of CAPS struts his stuff at Bruno Magli's sky-top showroom in New York
Christopher Atamian -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Coincidence or kismet? The renovated New York showroom of Bruno Magli, the Italian foot-wear and leather-goods house, just happens to occupy the former penthouse duplex of the infamously shoe-obsessed Imelda Marcos. Enter today and, instead of encountering the enormous walk-in closet of the former first lady of the Philippines, you'll find an understated, well coordinated space by CAPS, the firm of architect Christophe Carpente.
Hired by Bruno Magli's new owner, the Opera Fund, on the strength of his portfolio of large-scale international retail projects, Carpente used natural materials throughout the 5,000-square-foot space. Says managing director Alexander Zschokke, who worked with Carpente from the inception of the project, "We integrated the same identity everywhere, down to the use of our new corporate colors." Indeed, the gray, brown, and red identified with Magli appear everywhere, starting in the 25th-floor lobby.
Visitors stepping off the elevator first encounter a tunnel of bleached-oak walls, with a backlit Bruno Magli logo on the right, that leads to reception. The tunnel, Carpente says, acts as a transition "between the outside world into the Bruno Magli world." Red neon tubes installed along the base of the reception desk and pendants shaded in gray linen provide a tailored first impression before visitors enter the men's showroom—which, in addition to the merchandise, features two workstations, plus lounge and meeting areas.
The space for the men's collection mirrors a Bruno Magli retail concept: displaying merchandise on freestanding furniture, so clients are surrounded by some part of the latest collection no matter where they are. In the lounge area, Jasper Morrison benches covered in dark brown leather are accompanied by bleached-oak side tables—the exact same loop fixtures used to display shoes and large leather goods through-out. Loops of varying sizes cluster on the carpeted floor; larger bleached-oak pieces stand inside mirrored cases of fine-grained South American veneer. Off-white walls are hung with Raymond Meier's oversize merchandise shots, one of which includes Frankie Rayder, the model in the company's 2003 ad campaign.
"Obviously, a showroom caters to a different clientele than a store, so I created a more fluid environment that could function both as a display area and a work space," says Carpente. The architect placed the workstations at both ends of the showroom, allowing buyers to view merchandise while doing additional research or making calls. Each of the workstations has bleached-oak desks and double-headed metal floor lamps by Antonio Citterio.
The women's collection, upstairs on 26, is more intimate. The penthouse space is divided by a Carpente-designed dark brown leather-covered banquette. On one side, multiple styles of boots and signature Bruno Magli Ring bags sit atop more bleached-oak loops and double-sided storage fixtures meant to recall 19th-century steamer trunks. On the other side of the room is a bleached-oak catwalk with a second banquette alongside to accommodate observers. Above, the ceiling consists of overlapping panels of bleached oak.
But it's the penthouse's wraparound terrace that affords the real drama: sweeping views of Fifth Avenue and Central Park. The panorama complements Carpente's open concept for the showroom, a space that articulates the Bruno Magli vision while ingeniously combining understatement and exhilaration. Whether made by Magli or owned by Marcos, beautiful shoes are at home.