To A Tee
Bunny Wong -- Interior Design, 4/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Known for deceptively simple-looking clingy tops and casual ruched minidresses, the Zooey label has perfected the look of girl-next-door-moves-to-Hollywood. Recently, organic-cotton T-shirts joined the lineup—the girl next door now recycles. A rebranding effort, aimed at making shoppers aware of these identities, began when the company placed its showrooms in the hands of Stefan Beckman, a stylist and set designer who does the occasional interior, too. (His firm's 2007 projects included a Marc Jacobs show stage set and a New York Times photo shoot featuring a Samuel Beckett–esque wasteland of clothes.)
"The biggest challenge with a showroom is that it's two things. It's an office where people work, and it's a place that has to make the clothes look good for clients," Beckman says. Zooey's New York showroom would call for additional inventive thinking, because the aesthetic developed there had to translate easily to a showroom in Los Angeles and to incorporate signage and other details suitable for retail locations.
As a brand, Zooey emphasizes an earth-friendly stance. Still, Beckman clarifies, "I didn't necessarily approach this as a green project. I start very abstractly, especially for interior design." In this case, he adds, "We didn't just say, 'Let's use organic materials.' We went a step back to asking, 'What does organic mean?' It means interesting forms that don't feel hard."
Curves are everywhere you look in the 1,200-square-foot open space. Starting at reception, desks are encircled by C-shape low partitions of corrugated composite-board to create pods or cocoons, as Beckman calls them—no Dilbert-style collection of cubicles round here. And instead of clients being faced by a bland structural column when they walk through the front doors, Beckman wrapped it in undulating oak laminate. The same greenish-gray veneer clads a wavy wall panel that anchors the conference area used for client presentations.
Color provides continuity, too: Beckman went for a palette of greens. Although the shades might be grassy-bright or leafy-fresh, he's quick to point out that the selection was as much about beauty as eco-symbolism. "It's a sophisticated approach to organic," he says.
Green-lacquered strips of wood top the desk-pod partitions. Meanwhile, in the conference area, the veneered wall panel is interrupted by three long horizontal slashes backed by green-painted steel. This visually arresting element cleverly doubles as a display fixture—the slashes are just deep enough to accept the hook of a hanger, so employees can show off clothes to the buyers.
They're seated in Arne Jacobsen chairs at Corian-topped tables, all white. The other color punctuating Beckman's greens is a rusty red, which appears on the door to a storage area. "I've always loved those industrial, meat-locker-type doors, he says.
Beckman saw artwork as a chance to make the showroom less corporate and as a source of images for branding. Collaging various Zooey shirt patterns, he came up with a black-and-white vinyl mural for one wall. Stripes collide with peace signs, and butterflies flit in and out of inky scrawls. Sections of the mural were later copied on postcards that went out to clients.
In the center of the loft space's window wall hang four repeated Zooey signs, their composition vaguely inspired by Andy Warhol silk-screen graphics and paint spills. Versions will soon appear in stores, too, in the hopes that the offhand glamour the signs convey filters into shoppers' consciousness when they reach for that pleated rose-colored top.