Cornering the Youth Market
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
firm: peter marino architect
site: los angeles
If Karl Lagerfeld can constantly reinvent himself, why can’t Chanel? At least at one shop. And when it comes to trying on “hip” for size, what better place to do it than Los Angeles, where transformation is the lingua franca? So the luxury brand scored a site on a trendsetting stretch of Robertson Boulevard and called on the obvious choice: Peter Marino Architect has completed 82 Chanel boutiques worldwide, including the one in that nearby bastion of haute, Beverly Hills.
“This is Peter Marino being funky and fun for a target customer who’s 20 years younger,” Marino himself remarks. Basically, it’s a white stucco box—“everyone’s fantasy at architecture school,” he continues. That’s a strikingly simple finish in contrast to the Rodeo Drive outpost, with its faux marble exterior.
Despite appearing to be new construction, Chanel on Robertson is technically a remodel of a two-story 1960’s building stripped down to its wooden frame. Within the confines of its U shape, 5,400 square feet encompassing a slight grade change at street level, Marino rebuilt to profit from the site’s prime asset, a 1,000-square-foot courtyard with four mature fern pines. His big moves involved not volumes but apertures.
Street-front, he pulled back the facade and made a 20-foot-wide entry, closed off at night by a garage door. “Focus groups said people were intimidated to walk into Chanel,” he reports. “Price may have something to do with it.” To lure the reluctant, he set a 12-foot-high video monitor at an angle to the doorway, showing a continuous loop of runway footage visible from half a block away.
The courtyard’s walls, meanwhile, are punched with 17 windows, upstairs and down. Some actually open; all heighten the sense of patio proximity. The best views, in fact, are from outside looking in, where the current season’s halter-necked dresses and high-waisted pencil skirts are artfully framed in the black-and-white setting.
Chanel’s concept for this one-off project was simple: Edit the collections with an eye to the brand-besotted young, and frequently mix up the merchandise. Up front on the ground level, accessories, cosmetics, shoes, and bags are displayed on white Thassos marble shelving or in clear glass display cases.
“At our office, we referred to this project as the Chanel gallery,” Marino says—like the art galleries he frequents back home in New York. Visual cues include the open space, the spare materials, and the track lights. Flooring of white crystalline glass, accented by black granite, forms a catwalk through the ground level’s three zones. The remainder of the envelope is little more than a stretched fabric ceiling and plaster walls.
To entice customers to the rear, where ready-to-wear is, Marino built a focal wall with a gap in the middle, so customers can pass through to reach the black concrete stairway to the second floor. The focal wall’s clear glass virtually disappears, leaving behind the strongly horizontal stripes created by the black edges of cantilevered shelves—which send out a siren song begging customers to fondle the shoes and sweaters displayed there. As a vertical counterpoint, he hung a 20-foot-tall, densely patterned black-on-white painting at the base of the stairs. The painting and a slightly smaller version, installed at the top of the stairs, pay homage to local artist Robert Greene’s standard poodles, Luc and Martin.
The second level has the same merchandise but in more sumptuous surroundings. A tweed-covered sofa, set on black-and-white wool carpet, anchors the salonlike setting. Curvy carbon-fiber chairs sit on the white floor as well as outside, on the precast concrete pavers of a terrace that hovers below the treetops.
So what is it the young and restless snap up the most these days? Bags, ironically the perennial quilted classic with chains.