The Top Shops

NEW YORK — Forget what you know about traditional shoe stores. In a crowded retail landscape, store owners are using design as a way to separate themselves from the competition and burnish their images. From custom furnishings to exotic materials to innovative use of space, no design concept is off limits when the goal is to make a major statement. Here, Footwear News looks at six stores that are wowing customers with original interiors designed to showcase the product.

Diego Dolcini, Milan, Italy

The Scoop: Designer Diego Dolcini bowed his first Milan boutique on April 18. The 700-sq.-ft. space was a joint effort, designed by Dolcini and famed furnishings artist Martino Gamper.

The Vision: Dolcini and Gamper wanted to create a space that fused fashion with art and design, and they turned to Dolcini’s signature black shoebox for inspiration. “The boutique is not a classic design concept but rather a site-specific installation,” said Dolcini.

Design Specs: Repeating throughout the three-room store are displays and shelving that support the shoebox motif. Gamper created more than 100 of the structures using four different types of wood — walnut, larch, ash and elm. The wood theme continues in the floors, which were crafted from oak. Meanwhile, the walls of the long, thin corridor separating the rooms are covered with calfskin suede. The lighting was designed to highlight the merchandise (using focus lights) and illuminate the entire space (with wide-angle fixtures).

Alexander McQueen, Los Angeles

The Scoop: Alexander McQueen opened a sprawling, 3,100-sq.-ft. store on Melrose Avenue in April, making it the fifth global retail store for the company.

The Vision:
McQueen wanted to create an organic and simple space that also incorporated the theatrics of the brand, which in the past has featured shipwrecks and paint-spraying car robots in its runway shows.

Design Specs: Designed by Will Russel of Pentagram Architects, the store concept adheres to a seamless, elegant theme. White plaster walls appear as though they were carved from one block and seemingly melt into the ceiling and the speckled-gray marble and mother-of-pearl floor. The interior lighting plan mixes natural, fluorescent and tungsten lighting, creating a glowing effect for the space. Suspended clothing racks and display cases dangle from the ceiling, making the fixtures appear as if they’re floating, while shoes are displayed along shelving units that have been carved out of the walls. A stainless-steel sculpture of a man’s body, titled “Angel of the Americas,” is lodged within a skylight in the store’s ceiling. Designed by Robert Bryce Muir, the sculpture’s lower half is visible in the store, while the arms and torso can be seen poking out of the boutique’s rooftop.

Pedder Red, Hong Kong

The Scoop: Last December, Pedder Group opened a 2,000-sq.-ft. flagship Pedder Red store on Hong Kong’s Wellington Street. “This is one of the most important retail districts in Hong Kong, and we wanted to be in a neighborhood with character,” said Blondie Tsang, SVP of merchandising.

The Vision:
Tsang called upon Shanghai-based design firm Neri & Hu to create a store that looked like no other. “We wanted something very stimulating for our customer,” Tsang said.

Design Specs: Natural woods are used throughout the store, starting with the massive wooden box in the window, which doubles as a stock room. Raw cement flooring creates an unpolished look. Hand-hammered bronze material adorns the display shelves to reflect light, and curved blue tables, crafted from painted steel, are arranged throughout the store to showcase product. “All furnishings were made special for the store,” said Tsang. “We didn’t want to have traditional fixtures.”

Barneys, Las Vegas

The Scoop: Barneys unveiled its Las Vegas store last January, a dazzling 85,000-sq.-ft. showcase in the Shoppes at The Palazzo.

The Vision: “More is more” was the philosophy of David New, Barneys New York’s EVP of creative services, who tapped fashion retail experts Jeffrey Hutchinson & Associates to collaborate on the space. The team’s challenge was to create a store that mirrored Barneys’ signature aesthetic while also incorporating the glamour and vibrancy of Las Vegas.

Design Specs: Before shoppers even enter the space, they are met by an infinity-edge fountain that sits out front. The store’s exterior is adorned with ceramic fritted glass designed exclusively for the store by artist John Paul Philippe, who decorated the tinted screens with a subtle design taken from playing cards. Inside, Japanese colored paper and ink were used to cover the cosmetics counters. In the center of the store sits a concrete, oval spiral staircase, finished in plaster and stone and lit by a third-floor skylight. On the second floor is the 4,400-sq.-ft. shoe salon, where luxe styles are shown on variegated acrylic shelves to simulate a floating display.

Christian Louboutin, London

The Scoop: In May, Christian Louboutin opened his 2,000-sq.-ft. location on London’s hot shopping strip, Mount Street, which also boasts a Marc Jacobs and Balenciaga store. “I was also thinking of [opening on] Bruton Street,” he said. “However, [Mount Street] is wider and less busy.” Clearly passionate about the flagship project, the designer even rolled up his sleeves for part of the store’s construction.

The Vision:
The shop was designed to reflect Louboutin’s interests and passions. Many of the items in the store are connected to his love of travel and personal collections from various trips.

Design Specs:
New York-based architect Eric Clough, the same designer behind the Louboutin store in Las Vegas, created the London concept. Most of the products are displayed in the traditional Louboutin setting — dome-like mirrored alcoves — while additional shoe styles and handbags are shown in alcoves adorned by distressed North African-inspired frames created from old ceiling tins. On the ceiling sits a massive Perspex that was personally crafted by the designer, who spent two days working pieces of agate into the structure. The interior boasts items bought by Louboutin himself — including furniture from Uzbekistan and fabrics from central Asia. In the front window a life-size Fabergé egg houses a twirling mannequin clothed in a special dress commissioned from Rodarte designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy, who Louboutin has collaborated with on runway shoes in the past.

Concepts, Cambridge, Mass.

The Scoop: Tannery masterminds Tarek and Sam Hassan had a busy year. The duo opened a new 12,000-sq.-ft. Tannery location last October, followed by a 3,000-sq.-ft. concept store on Brattle Street in February called Concepts. The latter boasts a VIP lounge, a recording studio and all the amenities of a five-star nightclub.

The Vision: “A store like this has never been done before,” said Tarek Hassan. “Everything is custom and unique to this [space].” Taking a cue from the elements of skate culture, Soldier Design of Cambridge installed custom wood paneling along the walls, inspired by the shape of deconstructed skate boards. “We wanted to…raise the bar as far as the design and reach into the skate heritage of the store,” said Frank Rivera, manager of Concepts.

Design Specs:
Unique wood panels define the store, which is accented by sleek, glass-enclosed fireplaces. A huge selection of sneakers line the walls. A soundproof, glass recording booth at the back of the shop hosts celebrity interviews that are broadcast on the store’s Website. Downstairs, a VIP lounge is designed with rich wood furnishings, custom square leather couches, flat-screen TVs, working fireplaces and a fully stocked bar.


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