The Bear Essentials
The guest list read like a who's who of the music, fashion, and film worlds. Kanye West mingled with Anna Wintour and Pharell Williams.
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 7/1/2011 5:27:00 PM
firm: Studio Ora-Ito
The guest list read like a who's who of the music, fashion, and film worlds. Kanye West mingled with Anna Wintour and Pharell Williams. Catherine Deneuve, Inès de la Fressange, and Kristin Scott Thomas stopped by as well. Hosted by Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH boss Bernard, at the Palais de Tokyo contemporary-art museum in Paris, the party celebrated the opening of Chinese painter and sculptor Jiji's exhibition "Hi Panda!" As reported by another attendee, the interior and industrial designer known as Ora-Ïto, "It was unprecedented in terms of the celebrities who were there." And an introduction at the party led Jiji to ask Studio Ora-Ïto to design the first European outlet for the clothing label Hi Panda.
The entrepreneurial artist's wife, He Jing, designs Hi Panda's jeans, T-shirts, accessories, and toys. With 50 stores in China and Japan, the brand feels very much like the Middle Kingdom's answer to Hello Kitty. The logo, a cartoon panda by Jiji, is meant to symbolize the youth of his country-a group that distinguishes itself, he says, with a "strong, sarcastic, narcissistic, proud, and changing nature." Constantly grumpy, the panda eats noodles, rides a bike, and dresses like a DJ, a basketball player, or a rapper.
"Ora-Ïto's futuristic, contemporary touch fits perfectly with my vision," Jiji says. The designer was also unfazed by the minuscule 237-square-foot size of the Hi Panda location, in a former garage not far from the trendy "concept store" Colette. "How to create something great in a small space is a problem that interests me," he says.
His response was to avoid a mind-boggling barrage of divergent elements and, instead, run with one strong gesture. It comes in the form of a huge, flat ceiling fixture-actually half of the Hi Panda logo's bear face but seemingly whole when reflected in the mirror that lines one of the sidewalls. For good measure, he also mirrored part of the back wall, not only magnifying the space further but also serving a functional purpose: The rear corner transforms into a fitting room when closed off by a pocket door.
The door is clad in plastic laminate, but almost everything else is solid-surfacing-starting with the logo-shape sign, front door handle, and ceiling fixture. He assembled the solid-surfacing ceiling, walls, and floor kit-style, with hollow joints. "Almost like Legos," he says.
Throughout, he favored curved shapes and opted for a palette that's almost exclusively white. The one exception is an L-shape built-in that multitasks as a seat, a shelving unit, and a cash-wrap desk. It's bright red-an obvious color, given its links to Asia.
The built-in displays small items, while a hang bar and shelves are opposite. There are watches, mugs, notebooks, bags, and T-shirts. A cap flaunts a red panda eating a lollipop, and a black panda sculpture is made from lava.
Somehow it would be difficult to imagine the sartorially snappy Ora-Ïto in a Hi Panda T-shirt. Nevertheless, he heartily applauds Jiji's approach: "I like the idea of democratizing art via products. It reminds me a little of Keith Haring's Pop Shop in New York in the '80's."
Photography by Eric Laignel.
COGITECH DESIGN: WOODWORK.