Bag of Tricks
LeSportsac carries on in a jet-set modern New York flagship by S. Russell Groves
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 4/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
LeSportsac's durable nylon bags were all the rage in the 1970s, but by the late '80s they had fallen out of favor with the trendy set. Last year, after shifting the product focus from purely functional to fashion-forward varieties—and enlisting guest designers such as Jonathan Adler and Diane von Furstenberg—the brand burst back onto the scene. The fashion press lauded the new, brightly colored carryalls, which were snapped up by socialites and starlets. All that LeSportsac was missing was a New York flagship to communicate the new direction.
Timothy Schifter, LeSportsac's president and CEO, took advantage of the momentum and asked S. Russell Groves to design a Madison Avenue flagship. (The New York architect had also been achieving a fair share of buzz lately with stores for another American handbag staple, Coach.) The 2,400-square-foot LeSportsac store takes design cues from the company's '70s roots as a purveyor of fold-in-a-pouch bags and luggage of industrial and high-tech ripstop nylon, used mainly for parachutes back then. "The product has this tech-y, inventive background," Groves says. To capture a similar spirit in the space, he laser-cut and bent sheets of white powder-coated steel to create clever shelving that hooks over the edges of walls, countertops, and low wood storage units. Clear acrylic is used for additional shelving. In a nod to the product's associations with air travel (light weight and soft forms make the bags ideal for overhead bins) Groves attempted to evoke a "1960s airport lounge" by using Saarinen tables and Barcelona chairs for display vignettes throughout the store.
Though Groves and Schifter selected a neutral palette so as not to interfere with the vibrant, pattern-heavy products, the two agreed upon a striking French blue for the resin epoxy floor. The sea of cerulean gives the space a whimsical and amiable feel that enlivens the otherwise restrained aesthetic. And, incidentally, that precise shade of blue is the favorite shirt color of the CEO.