Opening its doors this week on London’s Mount Street, a new Valextra store marks the brand’s flagship debut in the city. For the project, the Italian leather goods company enlisted POST-OFFICE, the London-based studio of Canadian designer Philippe Malouin, who created the look for its new home.
‘We have been admiring Philippe’s work for a while,’ says Sara Ferrero, the brand’s CEO, who together with art director Susanna Cucco, has worked closely with the designer on the project. ‘We like the way he works with materials, his pure and graphic approach to design, but also the sophisticated way he combines texture and colours.’ Malouin approached the space as a domestic environment, creating an intimate language that combines materials and colours to celebrate the exquisite Valextra product.
Architectural elements and motifs from his ongoing design research become integral parts of the store – such as the axonometric MDF wall, a ‘landscape’, as Malouin calls it, which forms a sculptural backdrop for the collection. On the other side, brushed brass shelves serve as a display for suitcases and larger bags, with a pink padded wall as the background. In the centre of the space, small leather goods are displayed on powder pink concrete modules, an oversized version of smaller objects the designer had developed when researching the material. More domestic touches populate the store – such as his 'Gridlock' chandelier, designed for Roll & Hill – or the small sitting room at the back of the space, furnished with vintage Giò Ponti chairs, Max Lamb’s 'Marmoreal' coffee table and Malouin’s 'Mollo' sofa for Established & Sons.
‘I think that Valextra is a very architectural, minimal brand, and the shop needed to reflect those qualities,’ says Malouin. The colour scheme in the boutique is at the same time muted and diverse, with a light blue mohair carpet uniting the space, populated with a palette of pink, green and gray that enhances and complements the textured leather of the collection. It's a collection that Malouin himself is very fond of. ‘I am very much a fan of the edges being shown,’ he explains, hinting to the signature black edges (or 'Costa') that identify the Valextra products. ‘The china finish on the edges look like architectural sketches that draw and outline the bags.’
A light blue mohair carpet unites the space
Malouin is the last of a series of creatives that Valextra has collaborated with in the past two years, mixing its classic, modernist product with the work of designers and architects. ‘We always work with designers who have an aesthetic similar to ours, but that at the same time can enrich our brand: for us it’s a two-way conversation,’ explains Ferrero. The brand worked with Martino Gamper on a pop-up installation in the Milan boutique, for which the designer got rid of all shelves and supports and used magnets instead to give the space a more graphic treatment. ‘The reason we started working with Martino is his ability to think outside the box,’ continues Ferrero. ‘He sees spaces in a non-traditional way, and expresses an extreme graphic thought: he is our magician, his lateral thinking is very interesting for us.’
After Gamper, the brand worked on further collaborations with the likes of art director and graphic designer Peter Saville, who created a display for the brand's spring/summer presentation earlier this year; and architect Bernard Dubois, who gave a minimal sensuality to the Milan store. Artist Lorenzo Vitturi worked with colour and shapes inspired by the leather cuts to create a series of sculptures shown at this year’s Salone del Mobile; and more recently, architect David Adjaye collaborated with Valextra on an asymmetrical, textured shop-in-shop inside Harrods.
Valextra CEO Sara Ferrero (pictured top left with designer Tom Dixon) gathered the art and design world to celebrate the launch, with the likes of artist Daniel Arsham (bottom left), Wallpaper* Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers and curator Maria Cristina Didero (both bottom right) joining for the raucous evening
‘The people we work with become part of our community,’ says Ferrero, who recently gathered these collaborators as well as names from the art and design world (from gallerist Nina Yashar to designer Ilse Crawford) for a dinner to celebrate the new London opening.
‘We always work with creatives whose aesthetic is close to ours, but that at the same time can enrich us,’ she concludes. ‘For us, these collaborations are part of an ongoing creative dialogue.’