The Man Behind Marc Jacobs *
Designer Stephan Jaklitsch has taken an ultrahip fashion label on a round-the-world tour
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 4/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
When a contractor gave Stephan Jaklitsch Design a New York apartment referral in 1999, the firm's namesake principal never guessed that the renovation would involve more than just refinishing the floor and overhauling the kitchen. That's because he had no idea that his new client was Robert Duffy, the vice chairman of Marc Jacobs International—manufacturer of fashion labels beloved by celebrities and retro-chic urbanites alike.
Impressed by the high quality of the completed renovation, Duffy hired Jaklitsch to design his first retail space: a San Francisco store for Marc Jacobs. Next up was the company's New York showroom and boutiques. Four years later, Jaklitsch has completed 21 Marc Jacobs stores worldwide, particularly in Asia, where business has been booming.
Between these many gigs, Jaklitsch has continued to build a portfolio of upscale lofts and houses. And other brands, including Fendi and Shelly Steffee, have been tapping his talents as well—a balance that translates into hip but comfortable retail environments that mix high-end residential furnishings with sleek finishes and cheeky detailing.
What's it like for a New York architect to work in Asia?
We've completed 15 Marc Jacobs stores there in the past three years, and we're currently working on eight more. We've been warmly received everywhere, but I always feel a little disconnected, jet-lagged, far from home—and then there's the language barrier. Lost In Translation sort of sums it up.
How do cultural differences affect the design process?
Because of the language issue and physical distance, we're removed from direct supervision of construction, so quality is never quite under our control. Plus, building techniques and capabilities vary from country to country. What contractors can do in Malaysia they can't do in Singapore—and vice versa. For example, we built a backlit facade of laser-cut translucent glass for a Taipei shop, but we couldn't repeat that element in South Korea because of language barriers. And the Japanese like to know all the answers ahead of time, which makes the planning process slower. There's a lot of trial and error.
Do Asian and U.S. locations of Marc Jacobs differ in any way?
Every store in every city represents an evolution of the brand concept, from the San Francisco store, completed in 1999, to one we're currently working on in Los Angeles. And each site presents fresh challenges to be resolved. The collection store in Taiwan is an extremely small, tight space so, to maximize the available wall area, I incorporated display space into the glazed storefront itself. This wasn't necessary for the Mercer Street boutique in New York and one of the San Francisco locations, where the interiors were loftier and more generously proportioned.
Regardless, though, we do adhere to consistent color and materials palettes. We always use black-stained floors and luxurious materials like marble for the collection stores. Blue-stained white-oak floors and industrial materials like stainless steel are for Marc by Marc Jacobs, which is more pop-oriented.
Are there any plans for a global design rollout?
We're developing a worldwide department-store package for Marc by Marc Jacobs as well as one for Marc Jacobs fragrances at airport duty-free shops. Still, I don't believe that you can take a single idea and just apply it to any location indiscriminately, without considering the specifics. If you don't constantly adapt and improve, you run the risk of watering down the original concept.
Why hire you for each project, versus an in-house or local designer?
I think it has to do with the client appreciating the high level of service that a certain individual can offer. Many fashion companies have in-house designers and still outsource. Take Peter Marino working with Louis Vuitton—which Marc also designs.
To what do you attribute the success of your partnership?
Marc's designs seem to tap into the zeitgeist, and I work to create backdrops that are as edgy as the clothing, yet a little more timeless. Unlike fashion, architecture can't cycle every time the weather changes.
The namesake principal of Stephan Jaklitsch Design founded his firm in 1998.
At his 2,000-square-foot Marc by Marc Jacobs store in Taiwan, clothing is displayed on cantilevered stainless-steel shelving.
Alternating translucent and clear glass panels separate the nearby Marc Jacobs boutique from the lobby of the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei hotel.
The Marc Jacobs boutique in the Landmark Center features a leather-upholstered chaise by Christian Liaigre, who provides seating for all locations worldwide.
Tokyo's freestanding three-story flagship is the first to carry both the collection and secondary line.