The Daredevil Wears Prada
Or actually Donna—if you're talking about Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski
Stephen Milioti -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski like to mix it up—retail, residential, and office, at home in New York or abroad. But one aspect of their work is consistent. It sets the stage for the world's tastemakers, Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan among them.
Kozerski's professional relationship with Karan began in the mid-1990's when he was designing her London boutique as an architect at Peter Marino Architect—where Bonetti was also working. In 2000, they decided to pool their talents as Bonetti/Kozerski Studio.
Today, its staff of 20 handles both architecture and interior design. The firm has completed 33 projects for Karan, including freestanding DKNY shops in China and South Korea. The New York headquarters of Ford Models is a more recent endeavor, as are the city's Tod's flagship and Tod's-Hogan showroom.
Between design sprees, the partners talk to us about model behavior and divulge what makes you pull out your credit cards.
How did your partnership come together?
DK: I left Peter Marino and started working in retail design at Donna Karan. I did her concept store on Madison Avenue in New York. Then Donna commissioned me to renovate her apartment, and I asked Enrico to help. That was our first project together as a firm. Next, we did the "spa house" at Donna's weekend residence in East Hampton.
EB: We'd become good friends at Peter Marino and already knew we worked well together.
What do you like the most about retail projects?
DK: We enjoy the challenge of coming up with a total concept and implementing it. There's a lot to consider—defining the image a brand portrays and bringing the essence of that brand into a shop while experimenting with the architecture. We love to watch people being drawn into a space. . .hopefully!
How do you see your role?
EB: We happily acknowledge that shopping is a big part of people's lives. We're there to build a well oiled machine for selling, something that feels good.
What was the first step for your Tod's flagship?
DK: We presented a detailed analysis of Tod's flagship in Milan and brought up things that we didn't think were working, such as how the store treated the rather sensitive issue of taking shoes off in public—we put those seating areas in less-trafficked spots.
EB: Plus, we were told that the brand stood for luxury leather and saddle stitching. From what we saw, though, the stores weren't conveying that.
How does your interior tell the story?
DK: In addition to high-end leather shoes and handbags, the company has started a push with small leather goods. The wall displays we built for those agendas, wallets, and key chains are visible from the street, so customers would see the new lines and be drawn in at the entry-level price point. The more expensive goods are deep inside the store. It's a fortress effect. Also, creating two clearly separate areas enables customers to identify where they are easily. That's how we design—we map out the basic architecture, see how people move in the space, and then fill in the details.
How about those ultra-luxurious materials?
DK: We made simple but substantial connections. Since the company prides itself on top-quality leather, we used it to panel the walls and cover the mannequin posts. And instead of those cheap plastic tags that affix belts to a display stand—shocking how many high-end stores use those—we fabricated a stainless-steel fixture that the belts can hang on directly. It pushes the belt buckle forward and up, so no tag is necessary.
EB: Before the redesign, we made a prototype belt fixture and did a test run with it in Asian and European stores to observe how it worked, how people interacted with it. It was important to provide a transition. Our details make it feel as though the store has always been a certain way. It's subtle, not a huge intervention.
Do you take a similar approach with an office project?
EB: At Ford Models, we spent a lot of time on circulation, studying where people go in the office every day and how they get there. Those flow routes mapped out the space for us. Where there was the most foot traffic, we created a wide route flooded with sunlight.
What did the company say its needs were?
DK: They wanted to grow their business. We realized that a huge part of that intended growth would depend on how the model brokers work. We studied them and talked to them about the tools they need. Then we designed a table. From there, we determined that, if brokers are working on getting jobs for a model, they need to have the model's card in front of them. We developed a card wall, organized by the agency's different divisions—commercial print, teens, men, etc. Although the cards are arranged by division, they're all viewable, since some models work in more than one area.
EB: Ford also talked about reducing paper clutter, a big problem in modeling agencies. So we hid the fax machines in pods with brown exterior walls and lilac inside.
Any pet peeves with clients?
DK: A lot of people throw the term warmth around.
EB: When we show them an initial rendering, they sometimes say, "We're looking for more warmth." I want to tell them, "This is just a rendering. Am I supposed to draw a fire?"