The unstoppable Zaha Hadid swoops through a Tokyo flagship for Neil Barrett
David Sokol -- Interior Design, 4/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Only yesterday, it seems, Japan was awash in wagamama, young professional women living with their parents and flying high on disposable income. The mood has now turned dark in the world's most sophisticated consumer society, as shoppers prepare for another Lost Decade and turn their backs on ostentatious luxury. But the sea change doesn't faze Neil Barrett.
The London fashion designer gained renown working for beloved wagamama brands Gucci and Prada, but he's sure that his own label is recession-ready, attracting both men and women with classic fits and color palettes that endure through the seasons—to the tune of $73 million in sales last year. In fact, he's so confident in repeat customers that he just opened an 8,600-square-foot flagship in Omotesando, the Tokyo district that recently ranked as the capital of Japan's hyper-consumption.
Zaha Hadid designed the interior of the two-story spec building, which Barrett chose partly for its proximity to an 11-year-old Comme des Garçons boutique by Future Systems. “I find that most shop interiors age quite quickly. A gallery environment is better suited to longevity than standard retail settings,” he says.
Barrett first learned of Hadid's work while studying fashion at London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. And his idol didn't fail to impress. When he first alighted at Zaha Hadid Architects, he caught the firm's longtime senior partner, Patrik Schumacher, wearing Neil Barrett. By lunchtime, Hadid had decided on a scheme: mounting a “sculpture furniture” installation of museum caliber. “I design in the same instinctive way,” Barrett says. “If I spend more than five minutes on a design, I know it's wrong.”
Hadid hardly touched the shell of the Omotesando building. She even left the rough concrete of interior walls exposed, though she did finish the floors and stairs in shiny black epoxy resin. Running along the perimeters of both sales areas, hang bars shoulder most of Barrett's merchandise. A smaller wing to the side contains fitting rooms.
The main event is Hadid's freestanding installation. “Applying Rhino 4.0 to our experiments with Corian allowed us to explore the complex surfaces,” she says. “With Neil Barrett, we found a client with a strong willingness to take risks. That's a vital characteristic for extraordinary projects to become real.” Architect Elke Presser adds, “Like Neil, we were playing with the parameters of folding, of fixing points.” The results unfurl like loose pleats—as shelving for accessories.
To construct the installation, Hadidbolted a pair of large torqued planes of thermoformed white Corian to the center of the floor on the ground level, then attached smaller planes so that they appear to unfurl from the top. Smaller Corian built-ins, a bench tucked under the stairs and stools in the corner of each fitting room, echo the forms dominating the sales floor.
This strategy of minimal intervention, with a focus on sculptural pieces, can translate easily to a variety of other settings. Similar installations will appear in stores in Milan and London in 2010. And starting this year in Seoul, South Korea, a Hadid-designed modular Neil Barrett shop-in-shop is rolling out to department stores worldwide.
“Pushing things to extremes, like Zaha does, but still having desirability and usability is the most admirable position in the design field,” Barrett says. Take his fall 2009 men's collection. It features a coat with an extra lapel, basically an integral scarf, and a jacket with a polo shirt stitched inside.
Photography by Nacása & Partners.
PROJECT TEAM torsten broeder; claudia wulf: zaha hadid architects. cutting edge: thermoforming contractor.
PRODUCT SOURCES THROUGHOUT dupont: shelving, seating material.