It’s been over a year since Dolce & Gabbana abandoned a homogenous approach to retail design, embarking on an extensive overhaul of its global boutique network. Integral to this brick and mortar revamp is the architect Gwenaël Nicolas, who unveiled a theatre-inspired Tokyo store for the brand last August, and a modern palazzo for its Milan flagship last November.
‘We’ve defined a new dynamic,’ says the French-born, Tokyo-based architect of the Italian brand’s Old Bond Street overhaul. Once simply a ground floor space, it has been transformed into a tremendous light-filled 2,350 sq m store, spanning six floors and housing Dolce & Gabbana's men's and women's ready-to-wear, accessories, fine jewellery and watches collections. It also encompasses three private levels which, for the first time, act as a home to the brand's extravagant Alta Gioielleria, Alta Moda and Alta Sartoria collections.
On Saturday evening, in celebration of the Old Bond Street opening (that debuted at the same time as the brand’s new Steven Harris-designed Rome boutique) the brand showcased its latest men’s and women’s couture collections across the rooms of its exclusive private appointments suite.
An ode to all things English, the ostentatious collection was awash with Union Jack motifs, regal tweeds, punky Kings Road plaids and sharp Savile Row suiting, all fit for a Pimms-fueled picnic at Buckingham Palace. Models ascended an ovular spiral staircase, constructed from an intricate patchwork of monochromatic marble, and sashayed across a catwalk surrounded by grey zinc Fornasetti furniture and illuminated by glittering chandeliers.
‘I call it the baroque poetry of nature,’ Nicolas says of the boutique’s design. Its floors are swathed in black and white marble, their veins evoking the meandering tributaries of rivers, molten lava or streaming calligraphy ink. ‘When you arrive in the store you feel like everything is moving, the floor makes you feel as if you are in the middle of a river. I also wanted to create lighting that wraps around you, without shadow, and makes you feel as if you are floating in space.’
Across its imaginative retail network, Dolce & Gabbana creates spaces that reflect its locations. At the brand's St Barth store, white calypso and natural hemp upholstery evoke its tropical location. In Venice, mosaic and Murano glass details nod to the artisanal outputs of the city. ‘For Dolce & Gabbana, London is black and white,’ Nicolas says of the Old Bond Street store’s monochromatic sweep. ‘They wanted dignity, and for the store to be very classic and strong.’
Strength also lies in the boutique’s finishing touches. Sleek glass tables and shelves are framed in polished black walnut and steel. On the first floor – home of the men’s ready-to-wear collections – gold metal walls evoke streams of light and bring a modern edge to the brand’s gilded history. 'You feel like the sun of Sicily is part of the boutique,’ Nicolas says. ‘Similarly, in the Tokyo store, we created a big gold staircase, so that light shines through its centre.’
Of course, no Dolce & Gabbana store is complete with a brush of the baroque. The space is populated with antique chairs sourced from homes in Sicily, upholstered with faded velvet and framed in carved golden wood. Inside a fine jewellery consultation room, hidden behind an invisible door, walls are lined with luxurious black and gold Venetian fabric. ‘The space is about choreography, and how the people and the product move together,’ Nicolas says. ‘The store is a dialogue between designers who have two totally different languages. It is a canvas for our expressions.’