Recently, due to conversations with a dear friend, I've had retail on my mind in an intense way . Is luxury retail as we know it over? Or is it simply cycling into a new state of re-invention? Since shopping is such a primal , reptilian act, is there a new way of rethinking the ritual? In Michael Gabellini's monograph, 'Architecture Of The Interior', the Philadelphia born architect pays designer Jil Sander a supreme compliment. He notes that Jil Sander was one of his few clients who could extrapolate a space's reality just from looking at his architectural plans. He inferred from that that Sander, in many ways , thought like an architect in her ability to project a conceptual abstraction into real space.
Looking at the work Gabellini did with Jil Sander, two things are striking. Visually speaking , their collaboration was that aesthetic marriage made in heaven. The second thing is a little saddening. The departure of Sander from the high designer market was a big loss for the ideal of post-minimalist fashion. I'm grateful yes, that Sander's critical intelligence and ultra-refined tastes have been in the service of Uniqlo but still, there's a pang. Looking at the Jil Sander retail palaces that stretched from Hamburg to Milan, Paris and London you can see how her critical intelligence informed not only the clothes but the total context in which they were framed. Gabellini's contribution was to translate a perfect understanding of the Jil Sander taste point into an environment defined by pure, linear geometries; translucent, light filled planes; floating surfaces; and suspended forms. I remember going once to the Jil Sander showroom on 57th Street housed within the Marion Greenberg offices . I still recall the of impact of a room reduced to exquisite materials and pure light.
Architecture Of The Interior outlines the precision and passion that went into the creation of not only these Jil Sander spaces but also Gabellini's sumptuous private residences like an amazing 2000 sq foot pied a terre in the Olympic Tower in New York, as well as other revolutionary retail excursions like the legendary Linda Dresner boutique on Park Avenue. The great thing that retail revolutionaries like Armani and Sander (and of course Rei Kawakubo ) were able to achieve was the transposition of the aesthetic of the art gallery into the context of designer fashion. As such they were able to identity a new kind of consumer within the expanding mythology of bourgeoise privilege. The question one has to ask , looking at Gabellini's pristine palaces is , are we looking at a by-gone era or is this a template for an evolving tradition? Micheal Gabellini may have very well posited an answer when he said by way of advice to young designers " This is your time. There has never ever been a better time for young designers to inhabit the world of design. It is an ecosystem that is percolating and is allowing talent to rise, through engineering and technical advance."