He may be part of an international corporate entity now, but Alexander McQueen's New York flagship store retains the British designer's independently quirky vision - romantic and Gothic, with a frisson of the sinister.
McQueen's friend, architect William Russell, helped him articulate the 3600-square-foot boutique on W. 14th Street on a well-trafficked stretch of Manhattan's newly trendy Meatpacking District. The designer has likened his store to the levitating spaceship in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
The store's understated façade, a sweep of pale green translucent glass surrounding a seamless 15-foot window, frames the glowing interior. To the left of the window, McQueen's logo (the little "c" tucked elegantly inside the graceful "Q") is lettered in white on a panel of travertine-looking laminate. An uptilted parabolic form is cantilevered over the short entry passage, where an arresting window graphic of a flame-haired waif in a floating, ribbon-bound pink silk dress - holding leashed wolves amid a leafy ruin - references the "Little Red Riding Hood" theme of McQueen's autumn line.
As McQueen intended, the store's interior is a glowing, other-wordly white and pale gray cocoon of softly rounded curves and coves, with few angles of any kind. A series of interconnected plaster vaults gives the ceiling a look reminiscent of a medieval abbey. From it are suspended molded plaster display modules that seem to hover above the floor, UFO-like, on columns of light. These modules are flexible enough to accommodate a variety of display options: shelving, niches and hanging areas, all well-illuminated to show off the merchandise.
Along the wall to the left of the entry, handbags and other small accessories are presented on a long span of recessed shelving, evenly lighted by concealed fluorescent tubing. Just beyond this, a perimeter wall niche encloses hanging space for McQueen's just-introduced line of bespoke menswear. Sample garments are suspended from custom-designed hangers like the ones in hotel closets, with a nubbed end that clicks into an anchor in the soffit above. Here and elsewhere throughout the store, small halogen pinlights are mounted in pairs to further highlight the hanging garments.
At the center of the space is a construction that McQueen has dubbed "The Mother Ship" &- an ovoid island of sculpted plaster that rises like a ghostly apparition from the pearlescent terrazzo floor. Its top edge is rimmed with a ribbon of suffused light from fluoresecent tubing within. The underside of this lighting soffit encloses a steel track (inspired, perhaps, by the ones used to hang sides of beef in less-gentrified parts of this neighborhood), from which dresses, coats and other women's garments are suspended. This hanging cove extends nearly all the way around the perimeter of The Mother Ship, broken in places by individual, altar-like molded wall niches where small accessories can be shown with importance. The core of The Mother Ship encloses four wood-paneled fitting rooms - one fairly spacious and three of near-claustrophobic dimension -- ranged around a brightly illuminated center space with mirrored walls.
Bracketing the video screen that centers the back wall of the store is a pair of low, curving, gray terrazzo benches where customers can sit to try on the shoes that are displayed within reach on shelves recessed into the wall above. Just in front of the screen (which runs a continuous loop of McQueen's current runway shows) is a freestanding, almost sculptural terrazzo counter that serves as a bar during store events, while providing a place to fold garments or write up orders during the business day.
The pale gray and white palette provides a soothing, neutral backdrop for the current autumn line of clothing (mostly pink, gray, mauve and burgundy) but will work as well with other combinations. Everything is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, so there are no rough edges or awkward conjunctions.
Photos Courtesy of: KCD Worldwide, New York