Open for business
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
No longer your mother's handbag, Coach has reinvented itself over the last decade. Under the leadership of creative director Reed Krakoff, the classic American accessories brand began updating its goods—leather hobo bags, open-toed slides in jacquard logo fabric—to attract a young and sophisticated clientele. Sales boomed across the country and, indeed, around the globe. In Japan, sales have increased significantly over the past year, representing a growing part of Coach's international business.
Responding to Japan's frenzy for all things Coach, the company decided to open its first Tokyo flagship, in the prestigious Ginza shopping district. Michael Neumann Architecture was hired to turn the selected location, a two-story former drugstore unceremoniously wedged in a brick-clad tower, into an inviting boutique. Says principal Michael Neumann, "Coach requested a space that would project a relaxed American image."
Neumann started from the outside, gutting the site and wrapping the corner in double-height glazing. By recessing the glass 2 feet from the sidewalk, he also created a cantilevered overhang above and a raised plinth below, a treatment that blurs the boundary between inside and out. "Shoppers stay connected to the activity on the sidewalk, while window-shoppers standing out on the plinth feel as though they're inside the store. I've seen people hang out there chatting with friends," he says. The rest of the boutique's exterior is clad in white limestone, which pops against the surrounding brick.
Entering below backlit laminated-glass signage designed to mimic a Coach gift box, shoppers encounter a loftlike space whose limestone walls create continuity with the exterior. Floors are luxurious travertine except at the rear, where Neumann used walnut. "The contrasting dark and light materials act as a neutral backdrop for the colorful women's apparel, handbags, and jewelry," says Neumann. He also chose walnut for the cash-wrap desk, a display wall that runs alongside the staircase, and paneling for a private consultation room on the second floor.
By design, merchandise is easily accessible to customers. The walls are punctured with "lifestyle windows," niches showcasing products grouped according to theme; additional accessories are displayed on cantilevered maple shelving with a milk-paint finish. Powder-coated steel tables are topped with either painted maple or glass cases that are left open to reinforce the notion of accessibility. "It's quite different from the typical luxury-goods merchandising in Japan," says Neumann. "Leaving everything open is very American."