When Christina Exsteen took over the reigns of By Malene Birger in January 2014 after its namesake founder stepped down, her chief objective was to propel the Danish fashion brand into a global luxury house. 'For me it's really about making the brand international on all levels,' says Exsteen, who has been central to By Malene Birger's design team since its inception in 2003.
Therefore, in spite of the wealth of local Danish design talent available to her, Exsteen looked aboard to sought-after Italian outfit and fashion favourite Dimore Studio, helmed by Britt Moran and Emiliano Salci, for the brand's new Copenhagen flagship and global retail roll out.
The Milan-based studio's aesthetic may be in demand by luxury stalwarts from Bottega Veneta to Hermès, but this was a first for the interiors duo also in that they had never before led the design of a fashion retail store. 'When they first contacted us the brief was to create a more international flair for the space,' says Moran of their year-long relationship that will next spawn a second flagship in London's Marylebone this September.
'We injected some stronger colours, but we still wanted to keep it very feminine at the same time,' says Moran as he leads a tour of the two-storey store that's dominated by vintage 1970s accents that somehow already feel classic. An old chandelier was the first to go, he says, and replaced with a graphic black and white lighting installation that hangs above the store's sweeping, central staircase. 'We wanted something quite dramatic,' he says of the tubular piece.
True to form, Dimore's signature brass detailing has been lightly inserted into textured walls in addition to finishing leather and glass topped display cabinets. 'Brass is an element that we always use along with a strong unusual colour that you wouldn't really expect to find,' he continues. 'Those colours that are a bit unidentifiable, but still seem to work within the space.' The store's burnt maroon was actually inspired by 'the colour of the Opium perfume bottle by Yves Saint Laurent', he muses.
As for the boutique's curving brass racks: 'A nice way to set up the collection rather than having one complete wall of clothing, and also offers a way to divide up the actual looks,' he explains. The windows are similarly dressed with the brand's reoccurring circular motif.
'The real challenge is that this initial concept has to be transportable to so many other spaces,' Moran continues. 'So from our original drawings Michael [Ryding the fashion brand's in-house interior designer] had to find a way to make everything easily shippable and easy to put together.' Ryding worked with the Copenhagen-based furniture designer Malte Gormsen who, in addition to By Marlene Birger's Copenhagen headquarters, is also behind the handcrafted interiors of the city's best restaurant Noma.
'Before this collaboration we had been a very closed company,' explains Exsteen. 'What's so great about what's going on right now is getting different creative people to build bridges, which is what I find really interesting.'