13 Gansevoort St.
A British fashion designer who has a sense of humor about male vanity deserves a unique habitat.
And for his first flagship, Andrew Buckler got his just right, with the help of Marc Dizon, principal director of Orb Design.
The entrance, east of the corner of Hudson and Gansevoort streets, is easy to miss. But those in the know will find an enigmatic Fluxist rabbit hole – complete with a helmeted mannequin blasting upwards, seemingly from the earth's core, flanked by vertically mounted naked fluorescent tube lighting.
The intrepid shoppers who trip down the steep, narrow stairs are rewarded with the smug conviction that they have entered the inner sanctum of grotty bad-assedness. This is where Buckler's notorious line of low-slung, narrow-legged "sexy bastard" and "skinny bastard" jeans are for sale, alongside bespoke Neopolitan suits by Luigi Borelli for more formal misbehavior.
Buckler describes his aesthetic as "Tommy Lee in a blender with Gucci," which has earned him a hard-core rock-and-roll fan club. Buckler's threads are often sighted – on and off tour – on the likes of Iggy Pop, Ozzy Osbourne, Lenny Kravitz and the original skinny bastard himself, Mick Jagger. Next year, Buckler's "sexy bastard" briefs will be available, the box modeled on a Marlboro hard-pack. Saks is also discussing a vendor shop for 2006.
This space is all about subverting expectations, a cad-ish bait-and-switch. The design influences were British artist Demien Hirst, vintage James Bond sets and bombed-out subway stations. If the new James Bond (soon to be embodied by Daniel Craig) really is as dark, tough and gritty as promised, he should move in. In fact, vintage Bond films run all day.
The 3000-square-foot subterranean space was a former copper smelting factory that had been vacant for over a decade. As Dizon says, "it was filled with skeletons of critters we couldn't even identify." But instead of denying this gruesome past, Dizon decided to "embrace the ugliness" and integrate references to the space's Meatpacking District/heavy industrial heritage. He exaggerated the unevenness of the ancient damaged floor, left alone several beaten-up brick walls, used meat hooks to display the jeans by their beltloops and stripped away casements to reveal original cast-iron columns and original Douglas fir beams, now hundreds of years old. Classic white subway tile, a material all New Yorkers associate with underground spaces, zooms across walls at an angle. The very walls themselves are slanted, inducing a hangover-esque vertigo.
"The British sensibility is all about things that shouldn't be together," says Dizon. "It's quirky, it defies being understood. Who else in the world would eat Marmite [the famously gross British yeast toast spread]? Who else would decorate a room with wallpaper, curtains, tablecloths and bedspreads all in all the same fabric? That's why the black-on-black flocked wallpaper by Timorous Beasties seemed like a perfect complement to this post-industrial ambience."
Another marvelously unsettling architectural effect is the use of mirrored glass, the kind used in police interrogation rooms. When there is light behind the glass, ghost-like mannequins appear to be haunting the place. "The Rootstein mannequins are not realistic," says Dizon, "we like that they look like aliens." As one walks around, reflections taunt from unpredictable viewpoints.
The store is geared towards cocky men who like to strut their stuff so, as in a men's locker room, the modest have nowhere to hide. As long as the lights are on, the mirrored glass conceals nothing. And then there's the jail-like changing room. "The really bad boys know where they belong – this one's for me," says Buckler, with a sexy bastard grin.
Client: Buckler, New York
Design: ORB Design Group, New York
Marc Dizon, principal director
Jun Kumazawa, designer
Outside Design Consultant: David Valdez Studio, Los Angeles (metal fabrication)
General Contractor: Castellano Construction, New York
Fixtures: C&H Steel Iron, New York
Flooring and Furniture: ORB Design Group, New York
Lighting: , Huntington Beach, Calif.
Mannequins/Forms: Adel Rootstein USA Inc., New York
Signage/Graphics: ORB Design, New York
Buckler, New York
Wallcoverings and Materials: Nemo, New York
Timorous Beasties Shop, Glasgow, Scotland
Photography: James T. Murray, New York