Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 4/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
firm: lalire march architects
site: new york
Mention high-end men’s tailoring, and people are likely to think of buttoned-down Savile Row or nimble Hong Kong. At hip Barneys New York, where the cheeky mantra “Taste, Luxury, Humor” guides every move, neither was a suitable reference point for suits. The flagship’s seventh floor, given over to both off-the-peg and made-to-measure, hadn’t been renovated since the opening in 1993. It was time for an update—especially since the fresh look of Barneys outposts in Dallas, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Tokyo threatened to eclipse the New York original. So Lalire March Architects and the Barneys in-house team aimed for a lighter feeling and more openness. “There was no trepidation on our part about commenting on their sketches,” Christopher March says. “What Barneys does so well is to make magic with its store settings.”
Carving up the nearly 8,000-square-foot department into mini sections for Canali, Kiton, Lanvin, and marquee label Ermenegildo Zegna wasn’t an option. Neither was altering the horizontal sweep of the ceiling. According to widely accepted retail psychology, shoppers should be able to take in an entire department’s offerings in a single glance. To create a distinct identity for each brand, Lalire March dotted the sales floor with quirky accents, such as vintage furniture, antique vitrines, and colorful patterned rugs, and varied the display fixtures, from mirror-polished stainless-steel outriggers for formal wear to Donald Judd–inspired blackened-steel racks with brass hang bars for Zegna. “The fixtures remain special to Barneys,” Rex Lalire says. One repeating motif is the 1970’s glam of furniture by Paul Evans, including sculpted bronze side chairs and a pair of his signature tables in burl veneer and mirrored chrome.
While the cherrywood flooring was sanded down and refinished in a lighter stain, and the ceiling fixtures were retrofitted, the seventh floor remained open for business. The most extensive construction took place in the heart of the department, the made-to-measure suite’s consultation room, lounge for shopping companions, and fitting area. (Sartorially speaking, made-to-measure suits, for which customers pick fabrics and details for a garment cut from standard-size templates, are one step below bespoke.) A wall of clear and translucent glass panes sets off the consultation room, which was inspired by an Adolf Loos–designed bookstore in Vienna as well as old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs in general. Salesmen here present books of fabric swatches on leather-topped tables with built-in lighting bars like a library’s. Richly grained sapele veneers the walls. In niches, sapele boxes contain swatch books from Battistoni, Brioni, Canali, Hickey Freeman, Isaia, and Kiton. (Zegna’s made-to-measure desk is on the main sales floor.) Opened with leather handles, the boxes eliminate the visual clutter and chaos of swatch books that vary in size and shape from one label to another.
“It’s all about the details,” Barneys project manager Will Kim says. “Someone who appreciates the hand-stitching of a made-to-measure suit would definitely appreciate the dovetail joint of an armoire.” Every surface is meticulously crafted—often by hand, like the clothes.