by Anmol AhujaDec 02, 2021
As new and exciting perspectives emerge in the Spanish luxury fashion house under the influence of Demna Gvasalia, the flagship store of Balenciaga in London is a bold statement in the Victorian façade of New Bond street's luxury fashion outlets. The new store celebrates the brand’s concept of 'raw architecture' as a backdrop to unveil an empirical impression of modern luxury, in continuity with the Sloane Street store. At the forefront of this notion is the aim to create a new experience for retail and retail design, wherein polished objects of luxury are displayed in an unfinished setting. Thus, while the notion of perfection is rather glorified in luxury, Balenciaga and its recent outlets accent on a sense of temporality and action in progress. Designed by art director Nikolas Bildstein and Architect Andrea Faraguna of Berlin-based Studio Sub, the store's design ensconces its stages of deterioration with exposed services and aged patina finishes.
The thought envisioned in the interior design points to the brand’s new codes of retail wherein the passage of time is imagined as a transformative event. Hosted in a three-floor building comprising 710 sqm of floor area, the Balenciaga New Bond Street store offers a range of women’s and men’s ready-to-wear apparel, shoes, bags, accessories, eyewear, jewellery, and objects, curated in what the brand terms to be its interpretation of 'modern luxury'. The building stands at the intersection of the New Bond and Conduit Streets, with the ground floor corner chamfered to occupy the stainless-steel entrance door, complete with a Balenciaga 'stamp'. The building's twin facades adjoining the streets are adorned with floor-to-ceiling glass windows along with illuminated brand signs projected from the exterior. The raw structure and transparent façade reveal the deconstructed interiors to the streets, creating a pragmatic expression of the space to passersby.
The inchoate aesthetics of the exterior façade coalesce into the interiors rather seamlessly as the spaces exhibit a rudimentary finish which echoes the minimal consumption of virgin materials. The brutalist yet static concrete floor and walls create a sense of guided attention to the dynamicity of the exposed concrete ceiling. Industrial lighting systems with explosion-proof lamps add to the ‘roughness’ of the space.
The design's drama quotient is elevated through minute details, including stained and cracked concrete, oxidised steel, distressed textiles, stabilised dirt, and mud-like encrustations along with polished aluminium racks, smooth display vitrines, and integrated LED screens. To add to the abstraction of the passage of time and its physical manifestation in the store's design, the central core connecting the three floors is sealed with glass slabs, revealing an empty elevator shaft and an old staircase.
As much as the store itself transforms into an installation of sorts, its art quotient is raised by the collaboration between Dutch designer Tejo Remy and Balenciaga. Tastefully introduced art in the store comprises installations made with deadstock fabric and offcuts to the interiors, thereby adding in-depth perceptions to the campaign.
The global brand’s remarkable attempt to represent their responsible approach in fashion design extends in their project narrative with the brand stating, "The less that is taken out of the building, the less that is created - the less new material that needs to be put in," through an official release. While each building’s past is preserved in time, it is revived here with a renewed relevance. This initiative by the brand to facelift their stores in adaptively reused structures is a recurring attempt which is also seen in their transformation of Tank Shanghai into a couture salon.
(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)