Selling Sex (Appeal)
Jenny Armit lures visitors into Agent Provocateur's first Los Angeles store.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 4/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
THERE'S A FINE LINE between naughty and nice. Jenny Armit, a stylish Brit with a distinctive sensibility, walked that line gracefully in her design of the West Hollywood lingerie shop Agent Provocateur. Like its two London predecessors, the American version is a pink-and-red fantasy that's part glamorous boudoir, part chic bordello. The clients Joe Corre and Sarena Rees wanted to bring a quality "of eclectic, eccentric London to Los Angeles," says the designer, and she certainly delivered it.
Before Armit could begin work on the interior, she faced a full-scale renovation. The 2,000-sq.-ft. site, which included a mezzanine, was previously a green grocer. Not sexy. "We had to gut it and start again," remarks Armit. Her new arrangement accommodates the need for open sales space, customer privacy, an office, and storage.
But practical concerns aside, Agent Provocateur is not about space planning. It's about a suggestive, erotically charged image. For the wall treatments, Armit chose to replicate the backgrounds used in the London boutiques. The first floor is a hothouse of fuchsia palm fronds and flowers silk-screened on a silvered ground by London's K2 Screen. In the second-floor office, Armit covered the walls with British Pop artist Allan Jones's handprinted papers from the 1960s, which feature repeated images of a leather-clad dominatrix, a frequent Jones motif.
The merchandise—tantalizing lingerie and a complement of costume jewelry—is displayed on vintage aluminum fixtures and in glass-fronted wooden cabinets, all bought at auction in London. The largest unit was placed two-thirds of the way into the space, creating a private zone at the rear. Here, Armit continues in a Pop vein with Studio 65's classic Bocca settee, a seating unit in the form of luscious red lips. But the ultimate agent provocateurs are the sales women. Attired in flesh-toned mini-dresses scarcely longer than shirts, fluffy mules, and black fishnet stockings, they are perfect representatives of the store's aesthetic.