Laws of Attraction
Magnets are part of the draw at Alberta Ferretti’s Los Angeles flagship by Sybarite
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
“Minimal” Alberta Ferretti’s clothing is not. The Italian women’s fashion and accessories designer’s signature label and her lower-priced line, Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti, typically overflow with feminine shirring, sparkly beadwork, and spirited colors. But don’t get us wrong. There are plenty of sleek red-carpet looks, too. Think back to the knockout off-the-shoulder gown in chic putty-colored crepe de chine that Meryl Streep wore to this year’s Academy Awards. It’s just that Ferretti knows how to appeal to all our moods, from fresh and flirty to silver-screen goddess.
Her U.S. flagship is the epitome of sleek and spare, with not an extraneous element in sight. The location is Los Angeles, success with the Hollywood crowd certainly being part of the reason. And the look might seem familiar to fans of the architecture firm Sybarite, which specializes in fashion boutiques. “The store’s contemporary concept celebrates the entrepreneurial California environment,” Ferretti says. Sybarite principal Torquil McIntosh, a man of few words, sums up the concept this way: “It’s a simple interior where the clothes hang in suspension.”
Is making a customer-friendly environment inside an ultracontemporary column-free space of 4,300 square feet a design oxymoron? Yes and no. What sounds and looks simple is, inevitably, built on layers of complexity. Subtle alterations begin with the facade, its brick now updated with pale gray paint and inset panels of blackened steel. With 85 feet of frontage on two elevations, a once nondescript single-story building now has a huge presence on West Hollywood’s Melrose Avenue near the Pacific Design Center. “You don’t even have to read the store name to know what it is,” McIntosh says. (Just in case, the words Alberta and Ferretti do appear in backlit capital letters against the steel.)
Look through the front doors, and you can see the entire season’s collections for the two women’s lines as well as Alberta Ferretti Girl. Yet all that space and all those clothes are anything but overwhelming. McIntosh and his fellow principal, Simon Mitchell, have broken it down into digestible bites, making sure that every single chiffon minidress and metallic stiletto sandal have a place of their own. That’s because the freestanding steel fixtures double as dividers.
A pair of display rails take a confident model’s stance, their legs angled wide apart. If they were connected simply by a 10-foot-long bar, the clothes could get jammed to one side or the other, so Sybarite installed single-hanger crossbars at 4-inch intervals along the underside of the rail housing, which also contains LEDs to shine down on the merchandise. The identical single-hanger system is used for elliptical fixtures held jauntily aloft by five-legged bases. Not every item of clothing is shown on a hanger, however. Between the two display rails sits a glass-topped table long enough to spread out a gown and appreciate its detailing.
Then there are the mannequins. The full-length ones, which have neither a head nor legs, narrow down to a slender stem at the bottom, like a mermaid without a tail fin. Those stems fit neatly into round holes in the terrazzo floor, allowing the svelte white fiberglass figures to be positioned almost anywhere along the window walls or scattered throughout the store. The mannequin busts, hovering several feet above the terrazzo, have neither bases nor other visible means of support, and they’re not bolted into the surfaces behind. Stumped? Embedded magnets allow the busts as well as modular fiberglass shelving to attach themselves to the wavy strips of steel set into the shop’s five clear acrylic partitions. Could there possibly be anything more flexible? Actually, yes. It turns out that the entire perimeter, including the walls of the five fitting rooms, consists of lacquered steel panels, equally magnetic. In minutes, merchandising can undergo a complete transformation.
The tops of the five partitions disappear into narrow slots that radiate, like the lighting troughs, from the center of the ceiling. Its nearly 12-foot height called for a “noble finish,” Mitchell says. “We used Venetian plaster.”
L.A. is the first of Alberta Ferretti’s 10 stand-alone shops worldwide to get a makeover. “I’ve already approved a modification of this concept for a shop-in-shop at Printemps in Paris,” Ferretti confirms. Next up are Beirut, Lebanon; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and, of course, Dubayy and Qatar, United Arab Emirates.
Craig Hoverman; Nicola Hawkins; Petra Jenning; Giorgia Cannici; Filippo Ferraris; Giuseppe Giordano: Sybarite. Gruen Associates: Architect of Record. Alain Hirsch Construction: Structural Engineer, Mep, General Contractor. Carson Valley: Fixture Installation. Luxe Plaster: Plasterwork. Specialized Terrazzo: Flooring Contractor.
Throughout:Soozar: Custom Display Fixtures, Mannequins, Furniture, Paneling. Rsa Lighting: Recessed Ceiling Fixtures.