Store concept by David Chipperfield Architects for Akris is simply ‘selbstverständlich’

An ethereal new store concept by David Chipperfield Architects for Akris is rolled out from Washington to Tokyo

david chipperfield architects for akris store concept showing the interior of the ginza store
Akris’ new Tokyo boutique, with a concept inspired by the work of Italian artist Bruno Munari. White shelves suspended from thin wires form subtle lines across the pleated panelled walls
(Image credit: Sohei Oya)

Fashion, just like architecture, is about more than what meets the eye. Akris creative director Albert Kriemler knows this well: ‘For me, fashion is not just visual; it is about feeling, it is tactile. In the end, we wear clothes on our skin. This is something you need to feel, not just look at. In interiors, as in fashion, it is always about material and fabrics first.’ It was this intangible quality, this sense of elegance but also comfort and ease that Kriemler wanted to replicate in spatial terms when he embarked on the search for the right partner for a new series of concept stores for the century-old Swiss label. He soon found his perfect match in the studio of David Chipperfield. 

the david chipperfield architects for akris designed store in Ginza, seen here the austere front facade

The minimalist store is located in the upmarket shopping district of Ginza

(Image credit: Sohei Oya)

David Chipperfield Architects for Akris

Kriemler and Chipperfield have known each other for more than 20 years, having first met at a party in Zurich through a mutual friend, German architect Christoph Sattler. The British architect’s ‘sensitivity towards context and site specification’, as well as his distinct balance of ‘traditional requirements with a modern, minimalist design approach’, were what attracted the Akris designer to offer him the commission. ‘There is a sense of minimalist beauty and precision, a love of quality and functionalism in this new concept, which I can relate to,’ Kriemler says. ‘He is very experienced in dealing with existing structures, and that is what we need. When we look into new locations for our boutiques, we have to make compromises, because we do not build a house from scratch. David can reconsider old complex situations with the utmost respect – that is what I admire.’

david chipperfield architecture for akris concept design for stores, seen here the flagship in washington

The new Akris store in Washington DC features a curved glass façade

(Image credit: Alberto Parise)

Chipperfield, who famously kick-started his London practice by designing a series of stores for the likes of Issey Miyake, Kenzo and Equipment, is an experienced hand in the fashion world. Now the celebrated architect has additional offices in Berlin, Shanghai, Santiago de Compostela and Milan. The latter is helmed by Giuseppe Zampieri, the practice partner who also heads up the Akris project. ‘We immediately found common ground with Peter [Kriemler, president of Akris] and Albert Kriemler in our discussions about how to best represent Akris values,’ Zampieri says. ‘Materiality and craftsmanship with an international vision are the pillars of this Swiss brand. It was important to translate “Swissness” into something conceptual while avoiding cliché – an expression of heritage, precision and accuracy, celebrating the brand’s roots in Saint Gallen, one of the world’s leading textile centres.’  

bright interiors in concept store in washington, by david chipperfield for akris

Grey limestone flooring and large columns form a muted backdrop to the suspended displays

(Image credit: Alberto Parise)

The practice is known for its ability to work with a brand and translate it into architectural space in an extremely tailored way. Here, highly refined architecture meets a deep understanding of fashion identities and the ever-changing needs of the particular market, Zampieri explains: ‘Through the years, our approach and language changed according to the evolution of the brands and of the wider industry itself. Our clients are increasingly characterised by a richer research into craftsmanship, as well as a greater attention to the local sourcing of materials. In recent years, fashion houses have come to us to develop an extremely adaptive store concept that can respond to their need for repetition in various locations.’ 

detail of the light structure created by david chipperfield architects for akris, in their stores

The walls are lined with painted maple panels arranged to look like fabric pleats

(Image credit: Alberto Parise)

Launched to coincide with the fashion house’s centenary in 2022, a prototype of the new concept debuted in Washington DC in early May 2022, quickly followed by the Tokyo Ginza store the same month. Another, in Chicago, is currently in the works, due to open in the second half of 2023. The design draws on the pillars of the Swiss brand – materiality and craftsmanship. The architects found inspiration in Italian modernist artist Bruno Munari’s tensile structures, using the same technique as a device to craft space. The result is an interior that appears solid, but also delicate, almost floating, with white painted wood panelling serving as a background to a minimalist display system of taut steel cables and shelves. Akris’ signature material, ivory-coloured horsehair fabric, features in the fitting rooms. 

akris store interior in tokyo

Minimalist view inside the Ginza store

(Image credit: Sohei Oya)

Akris aims for timeless modernity, stresses Kriemler, who also counts Adolf Loos among his sources of architectural inspiration. The Austrian modernist also wrote fashion reviews, and Kriemler recalls how the architect once outlined that ‘a garment was modern when the person who wore it did not stand out’. This corresponds perfectly with Akris’ vision for collections that are selbstverständlich (natural, effortless and self-evident). 

Minimalist architectural space in Ginza store for Akris by david chipperfield

(Image credit: Sohei Oya)

The new concept by David Chipperfield Architects certainly delivers on this approach – these spaces are a representation of the brand’s future. And what would the ideal Akris store say to its visitors? ‘That fashion is about the person first,’ says Kriemler. ‘That is why it is also important to us how women feel in our store. Our mission is to make a woman feel her best self through what she wears – determined and free so she can express her own personality and charisma. Fashion is a language, as we all know. But, first and foremost, it is a conversation between a woman, her body, and her clothes.’ 

A version of this article appears in the March 2023 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today!

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).