Self-Portrait’s Mayfair outpost is a Cornish clay and aluminium marvel
When Han Chong was studying fashion design at London’s Central Saint Martins, he liked nothing better than perusing the luxury shops in Mayfair. Now, just five years after launching his cost-effective occasion-wear label Self-Portrait, the Malaysian-born talent has opened his first outpost on Albemarle Street in Mayfair, no less. ‘I wanted to offer that luxury shopping experience, but at our price point,’ says the designer. ‘Albemarle Street is perfect, because it has a sophisticated feel, but also an edge.’
Self-Portrait founder Han Chong at his brand’s Albemarle Street outpost. Photography: Paul Riddle
Having studied art before he ventured into fashion, Chong hoped to ‘exceed the expectations of a normal retail store, fusing art and architecture.’ To do this, he enlisted Casper Mueller Kneer Architects, the force behind acclaimed projects including the White Cube Gallery Bermondsey, the ICA London and the Céline boutiques. Spanning 223 sq m, the two-storey space takes inspiration from the brand’s focus on surface detail and tactility, and comprises a terrazzo floor with pink and white marble insets, an open grid ceiling that creates a continuous horizon, and walls coated with a smooth grey Cornish mineral clay.
‘It was important for us to create a number of different places that the customer could explore,’ explains architect Olaf Kneer. ‘So there’s a sequence of spaces flowing into each other, creating zones with different spatial and material qualities.’ Upstairs, curved metal screens give a playful sense of structure to the simple, open space. While on the ground floor, Chong and Kneer used stacked geometric columns and angular walls to create intimate alcoves and compartments, such as a secluded shoe stand and a marble seating area. Not to mention the semi-circular metal screens with coloured aluminium inlays, which proudly display the label’s trademark evening dresses, while also providing what Kneer describes as ‘visual shelter.’
In order to achieve the level of detail, accuracy and ingenuity desired, every single element of the store was custom made – even the furniture, which was crafted in collaboration with artist Michael Elmgreen. ‘That was probably our biggest challenge,’ reflects Kneer. ‘We even designed the terrazzo and marble inlay pattern of the floor, and worked with a highly specialised fabricator to control every step of the sampling, fabrication and installation very precisely.’
Needless to say, their efforts have paid off. ‘Every part of the store is true to the brand,’ enthuses Chong. ‘It’s a place where customers can experience our clothes and the dynamics of the architecture – the Self-Portrait world.’