Chanel Surfing, Paris
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
"Fashion is architecture. it's a matter of proportions," said Coco Chanel, a woman known for her spot-on aphorisms on all things sartorial. If her observation holds true, so does the reverse. At least in the case of retail design, architecture is fashion—and remains a matter of proportions. Take the new Chanel boutique in Paris, located on the pedigreed Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. For Peter Marino + Assoc Architects, the challenge was to carve out distinct merchandising zones, despite the building's narrow footprint, while creating cohesion between all three floors.
To do so, the New York firm—which has overseen Chanel's global retail identity for nearly 10 years—developed a scheme to reflect the brand's enduring style. "From inception, the Chanel look has been very modern, from the cut of the clothing to the packaging's crisp geometric forms and defining black outlines," says principal Peter Marino. He upheld this modernist tradition by relying on strong linearity and the classic Chanel black, white, and beige.
Contrast defines the 3,000-square-foot boutique. On the ground floor, near the entry, sunglasses appear in floor-to-ceiling wall units whose vertical strips of backlit white glass (behind displayed eyewear) alternate with vertical strips of black leather (actually the front of storage drawers). Walls and ceiling are lacquered in 18-inch-wide stripes of diamond dust. Slipped between the stripes, black leather-lined niches seem to float unanchored, halfway up the wall. At the rear of the ground level, Marino reversed this sequence. Niches lined in white leather are set between stripes of black-tinted diamond-dust lacquer. Rather than extend the lacquer stripes across the ceiling, as at the front, he scored the plane with lighting troughs for added dynamism.
Portuguese limestone flooring and stone walls run throughout the space, their creaminess offset by black display fixtures, some with painted-steel frames and others paneled in carbon fiber and topped by glass. On the basement level, luggage and other accessories are displayed on shelves of laminated glass and silk backed by sliding lacquered panels. Upstairs on the second level, Chanel's ready-to-wear and knitwear collections hang from leather-wrapped bars and freestanding units, also in laminated silk and glass.
Furnishings, all custom, are boxy and luxe. Lounge chairs are covered in custom rayon-cotton. Square cocktail tables are topped in hammered gold-leafed glass. Consultation tables, where clients try on fine jewelry and watches, feature black carbon-fiber frames and leather tops.
Tying the three levels together is a floating staircase with stone treads, leather-wrapped handrails, and a glass balustrade that morphs into a display case on the ground-level landing. The suspended structure folds along a light-box wall where images from current ad campaigns appear against the backlit white glass. Fashion has clearly become architecture.