Why a denim retailer’s NYC flagship is more exhibition than emporium

New York City – It’s taken a decade post-debut for premium denim brand R13 to open shop in its hometown, New York City: its first flagship, designed by Leong Leong, is a new addition to SoHo’s retail scene. According to Dominic and Chris Leong, creating the enticing brand space that R13 sought depended on using visual content, clothing and existing architecture of the 279-sq-m spot as tools to weave a unified atmosphere.

Leong Leong has designed projects for such clients as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Opening Ceremony, Siki Im and 6397. But, as Dominic Leong explains, ‘R13 is the first retail project we’ve designed in which content is a primary part of the experience. It’s very similar to exhibition design in that sense – this allowed us to explore the relationship between content and space in the context of a retail environment. We think of the store as a new kind of platform that allows the collection to be experienced in juxtaposition with other content.’

A compressed entryway lit by 13 fluorescent tubes leads visitors to the main showroom space, where brick walls, plumbing risers and electrical conduits are left rough and exposed. The industrial features juxtapose digital fixtures: five display ‘monoliths’, for example, are each wrapped in LED screens. Clothes are merchandized within these displays; the content playing from them is meant to read as a series as visitors move through the space. Eventually shoppers find themselves at the back of the store, where sliding glass doors open to an expansive patio.

‘We were inspired by the original Commes des Garҫons store on Wooster Street and the Helmut Lang store and parfumerie on Greene Street,’ says Chris Leong. ‘In addition to the legacy of art and creativity that embody downtown New York, those retail spaces were really a collision of art and commerce. We see the R13 Flagship as a continuation and evolution of that history.’

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