Focusing on up-scale, Euro-chic sportswear, Michael K needed a store environment that would appeal to the trend-setting tastes of its SoHo customers.
Owner Haim Kedmi, who was already familiar with the fashion sense of urban hipsters through his other chains, Active Wearhouse and Transit, sought a shopping experience that was as much nightclub and fashion runway as it was a shopping destination. And he felt that experience could be delivered, in part, by a variety of sensory stimulations, like lighting.
Designers from Tobin + Parnes Design Enterprises (New York) used programmable LEDs in a rainbow of colors, strobes, laser lights, TV and LCD screens, an in-house deejay booth and fog machines to create that edgy setting.
"He really wanted to give customers a sense of excitement when they walked into the store," says Carol Tobin, the firm's principal-in-charge.
Located on the ground and cellar floors of a seven-story SoHo landmark building, the 22,000-square-foot space houses two entrances - one on Broadway and another on Crosby Street. To help shoppers navigate the store, designers created a winding porcelain-tile pathway framed by LED lighting with metal-framed LED lights and LCD screens inset among the tiles.
"Lighting creates a path so that people entering the store are directed all the way through it," says Tobin. "Sort of like the yellow brick road, but in a curvilinear pattern."
Building on the theatrics of the lighting, designers programmed the system to change in rhythm to the music heard on the store's sound system. This creates a high-energy setting for Michael K's 22 vendors, including Sean John Blue, Ben Sherman, North Face, adidas and Nike, which are presented in individual boutiques throughout the store.
Recognizing that so many vendors could overwhelm shoppers, designers unified these spaces with flooring and lighting. Vendors were able to express their individuality through custom-designed fixtures created by Tobin's project architect and designer Vlad Zadneprianski.
Diamond plate panel flooring marks each boutique. Trellises hanging above each vendor's space house LED lights set in a checkered pattern that can be individually programmed. Further spotlighting the merchandise are adjustable MR-16 track lights mounted around the perimeter of the trellis.
Lighting also plays a pivotal role in the grand stairs, drawing shoppers to the lower level. A 30-foot-tall wall runs alongside the stairs and houses flashing LED lights and TV and LCD monitors.
"The lighting system is like an oversized piece of art that visually brings you downstairs and creates an enormous amount of excitement," says Zadneprianski.
With so much visual entertainment going on throughout the store, designers used a variety of metals as wallcoverings - including corrugated, embossed and patterned steel - as a backdrop to the clothes.
A dark gray painted ceiling and terra-cotta walls, located above each vendor boutique, provide a sense of grounding in the lively environment.
"We tried to pick intelligent colors that would unify and calm the feeling that was going on," says Tobin. "And we concentrated our lighting not just on making the space exciting but also focusing on the merchandise. The final analysis is about selling the goods."
Client: Michael K, New York - Haim Kedmi, owner
Design: Tobin + Parnes Design Enterprises, New York - Carol Tobin, Robert Parnes, principals-in-charge; Vlad Zadneprianski, project architect/designer
Outside Design Consultants: Design One, New York (lighting); AV&C, New York (audio/visual)
Suppliers: Samsung, Ridgefield Park, N.J., Panasonic, Chesapeake, Va., Accele, Cerritos, Calif., Sharp, Mahwah, N.J., JBL, Northridge, Calif., Tannoy, Totowa, N.J. (audio/video); illbruck Architectural Products, Minneapolis, Armstrong World Industries Inc., Lancaster, Pa. (ceilings); Kravet, Bethpage, N.Y. (fabrics); Myrah Construction, E. Elmhurst, N.Y. (fixturing); Masterker USA, Baltimore, Forbo Flooring, Hazleton, Pa. (flooring); Gropius Design, East Elmhurst, N.Y. (graphics); Lightolier, Fall River, Mass., Juno Lighting Group, Des Plaines, Ill., Color Kinetics, Boston, RSA, Chatsworth, Calif., Translite Sonoma, Sonoma, Calif., Clay Paky, Farmingdale, N.Y., Stonco, Union, N.J. (lighting); L.S. Sign, Brooklyn, N.Y. (signage); Rigidized Metals, Buffalo, N.Y. (wall panels); Chemetal (a div. of The October Co. Inc.), Easthampton, Mass., Advanced Technology Inc, Greensboro, N.C., Pionite Decorative Surfaces/Panolam, Auburn, Maine, Nevamar Co., Odenton, Md. (laminates); Benjamin Moore, Montvale, N.J. (paint); Ryerson Studio, Kingston, N.Y. (model maker); Mondo Mannequins, Hicksville, N.Y. (mannequins)