Fact or Fiction
A Russian dreamed up the shoe brand Carlo Pazolini-but you'd never guess it from this Milan boutique by Giorgio Borruso.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2011 3:12:00 PM
Giorgio Borruso's not on speed. But how else can he possibly survive? He spends three quarters of his time flying from his base in Southern California to oversee projects in New York, Rome, and Bangkok; even Cairo is on his itinerary, political events notwithstanding. Somehow, in between, he finds time to be a father to his 2-year-old son and a husband to his firm's project coordinator, Elizabeth Chang. And the whole family just moved into a new house. (For the record, everything's still in boxes.) Talking about the Carlo Pazolini boutique in Milan, on a busy piazza near the Duomo, his conversation was a mile-a-minute mix of English and Italian.
Carlo Pazolini is a fictional designer, invented by a Russian named Ilya Reznik. For the previous two decades, the women's and men's shoes and accessories brand existed only in the former Soviet Union, plus Prague. Planning to open the first Carlo Pazolini shop in Western Europe, Reznik was already savvy about retail design worldwide and familiar with Borruso's Italian fashion portfolio-Fila, Fornarina, Miss Sixty-and Giorgio Borruso Design was soon hired to introduce Carlo Pazolini to his imaginary homeland. A spectacular piece of corner real estate, 4,150 square feet that formerly belonged to a McDonald's, became a boutique that pairs utterly creative fixtures and furnishings, so quintessentially Milanese, with the visual high jinks characteristic of Borruso. (Shoes and accessories sold there, while not quite in the same league creatively, exhibit a Prada-like quality. They're made in the same factory.)
Borruso starts by stating the obvious: "The space is all about the display of shoes." But he moves quickly to the catalyst: "As an architect, I'm constantly looking for links." In a kind of free association on shoes, he sketched infants' feet and pondered how artists through the ages have represented and abstracted feet in general. He furthermore considered how shoes mold feet in what he calls a "container-contained relationship," one that the store would embody, too.
A simultaneous thought process led him to the decision to work with wool, specifically felt. And who better to help develop that than Paola Lenti? From the Lenti collaboration grew Borruso's primary design element, a folded polymer leaf shape lined in felt. Three smaller leaf versions cantilever in profusion from the store's focal wall. Literally expanding on the idea is a trio of leaf chairs, eminently flexible when the different sizes are ganged together.
Possible permutations increase still further, for both the displays and the chairs, when you add color to the mix: apricot, apple green, canary yellow, creamy white, and charcoal gray. Together, they form a vibrant abstraction visible from the piazza through eight huge windows framed by the facade's massive arches.
Shoppers enter on the men's side, accounting for a third of the sales floor. Here, Borruso operated on the principle that men need a tranquil atmosphere if they're to shop at all. He created calm with the soothing white curves of a plaster wall, which supports orderly parallel rows of aluminum shelves. Lest the men get complacent, however, he jolts them awake with a dash of surrealism, an expanse of mirror that confuses actual 3-D elements with mere reflections.
Women, meanwhile, continue through to their side, passing between pairs of original cast-iron columns discovered during demolition and left exposed. Behind the colorful leaf forms of the focal wall displaying women's shoes, oak-veneered slats are layered for a dimensional effect. They also extend beyond the leaves to peel outward, forming a canopy over the central cash-wrap enclosure that serves both sides.
Who hasn't occasionally purchased a pair of shoes that were comfy in the shop, then absolute torture when walking on concrete? No, we're not talking only the stilettos or sky-high platforms that constitute hazards for models strutting the catwalk. Borruso, leaving no surface untouched, gave careful consideration to a combination of hard and soft flooring. Superlarge, super-white porcelain tiles prevail, while gray carpet inserts provide a contrast for try-ons.
Reznik is already planning the brand's next steps. Space in high-end European department stores; shops in Berlin, London, and New York; and an office in the latter can mean just one thing for Borruso: more racked-up frequent-flier miles.
Photography by Alberto Ferrero.
studio luce rematarlazzi: lighting consultant. real: mep. chiavari: general contractor.