Marni à la Mode
Future Systems creates a model for Marni's retail presence, starting with a shop in London.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
WORKING WITH A modest array of design elements, the British architectural firm Future Systems conjured a brilliant image for the house of Marni in its Sloane Street store. The fashion label's prestige has recently skyrocketed, despite having no shop of its own, explains Prague-born architect Jan Kaplicky, who founded the London-based studio Future Systems in 1979. His firm—which has worked on projects for Comme des Garçons in New York, Tokyo, and Paris, as well as several large-scale buildings throughout the UK—received a concise mandate from the client: Create an image for the company that could be implemented in various settings without costly structural changes. Kaplicky enriched this program with an idea of his own. He conceived of the Marni store as appearing "radically different from the brand names next to it." This concept would apply in London as well as Milan and Paris, sites of the next projects.
Kaplicky's solution reads as a spirited environment that serves genuine retail interests without coming off as a drab shop concerned only with bottom-line sales figures. Entering the 1,500-sq.-ft. space at 16 Sloane Street, one feels transported to a 21st-century abstraction of an enchanted forest—a 3-D Kandinsky, if you like.
The analogy is apt. Kaplicky himself refers to the swirling, stainless-steel fixtures at the project's core as trees, and indeed early sketches show a progression from living forms to structural components. The gleaming 1 11/42-to-2-in.-thick tubes, with an integrated hook and hanger system, were conceived in response to the architect's concern with display. Kaplicky wanted full frontal views of garments, rather than seeing them shoved against walls. And he didn't want racks so crammed with merchandise that the customers' appreciation of Marni's exquisite textiles and workmanship would become a physical chore. In Kaplicky's scheme, the fixtures are rooted in the flooring and, as one of the parti's four aspects, completely free of walls and ceiling. Central display elements have either a hook or a slender branch-like projection supporting a molded, hand-finished acrylic hanger with a two-ft.-high neck. At the perimeter, curved rails, which include flattened surfaces for shoes and accessories plus an integral cash/wrap stand, have precisely placed hooks to order product density. "There's about 50 percent more room between garments than in normal fashion stores," the architect comments. Client Consuelo Castaglioni "understood that this project was not related to using every square inch of space."
Flooring is the third component is Kaplicky's quadripartite scheme. He used reconstituted glass to create a sinuous, central island within the site. "The quality of the material is absolutely essential," he says. It produces a crystalline surface. Finally, for the ceiling treatment, Kaplicky employed a suspended sheet of mirror-polished stainless steel, which echoes the island's form while anchoring lighting and ventilation ducts.
Wrapped by a cobalt-blue background, these dramatic elements present a fixed platform that facilitates a thorough appreciation of Marni's fluid and tactile clothing. That, of course, is the first order of business, but Kaplicky believes he has enriched the possibilities for retail design. "I feel we've made a contribution to the world of fashion with some new elements that will withstand the competition for a few years," he remarks.
Following the London installation, Future Systems has completed four in-store projects in Japan. With another shop in Milan, Marni is now planning sites in Paris and New York.
Future Systems partner Amanda Levete plus Torquil McIntosh, Simon Mitchell, and Rachel Stevenson collaborated on the project.