US designer Alexander Wang has opened a London flagship store, and his first freestanding store in Europe, enlisting Belgian architect Vincent van Duysen to transform a former Post Office on Mayfair's Albemarle Street. The three level, 625 sq m store, a few doors down from Victoria Beckham's striking Farshid Moussavi-designed flagship, carries the complete range of Wang's men's and women's ready-to-wear, T by Alexander Wang as well as the OBJECTS collection of homewares and accessories.
'We had a great dialogue right from the start,' says van Duysen of his working relationship with Wang. 'This is a project definitely not coming from just one direction; it's definitely the result of that dialogue.'
'Alexander bought in all these interesting materials such as distressed chrome, recycled rubber and industrial metal plate and we incorporated them into the design, along with natural stone and Travertine', he continues. 'There are rough expressive elements and then the soft and the delicate. Alexander wanted the unexpected. He also suggested this over-sized hangar system with rails that look like industrial pipes. There are very contradictory forms and in that way it's a shop that reflects his methodology as a fashion designer.'
Van Dysen says that a grid of beams was revealed when the Post Office was stripped back. And he made the most of them. 'Most people would have done one of two things; either take them out or strip them back and leave them very bare and industrial. We decided to cover them in Travertine.'
'The most difficult design decision though was where to put the new staircase.' he says. 'We have made it a real centre piece, something very monumental and sculptural.' Steps on the staircase are dark grey concrete encased in black leather while the handrail is embossed in stingray leather.
The store also includes furniture by Vincent Van Duysen Architects as well as by Alexander Wang for Poltrona Frau, re-editions of 1970s Italian designs by Gianfranco Frattini and sculptural installations by Ben Storms and Gerard Kuijpers, both in 'Noire de Mazy', a rare form of Belgian dark marble.
Van Duysen, who has designed stores for Aesop, Calvin Klein and spaces for Selfridges and La Rinescente, says store design let him explore his more theatrical, creative side. 'My residential projects are very calm and serene but with stores you are creating something very theatrical, you are creating a huge stage. But you have to remember that the clothes are the protagonist.'