The two fashion boutiques Mameg and Maison Martin Margiela sit side-by-side, in a single building. Their characters are different. Whereas Mameg creates an atmosphere of domesticity and comfort, Maison Martin Margiela creates a jarring world of collage and reflection. That the two boutiques, linked by a reflected-gold corridor, are so close physically and so distinct atmospherically prompted a simple division. With Maison Martin Margiela opening onto the street and Mameg oriented towards a private garden on the alley side, an existing wooden bow truss roof system acts as the datum. A program bar containing ‘back-of-house’ program frees up the rest of the space. Diverse design vocabularies define the two boutiques.
Mameg conjures the feel of a 19th-century archival library. Simultaneously neutral through its flexibility and full through its occupation, a white shelving system unifies the double-height retail space. Angled vertical supports compose a system of stacked white display boxes to produce a transitory image: it appears that, at any point, a unit could be removed, replaced, or reconfigured. This sense of a fleeting composition is reinforced by the scale of the shelving system. Rising from the floor to the mezzanine and trickling into compilations of smaller provisional arrangements, the objects displayed in the boxes play dual roles. Up close, the objects assume primacy; from afar, the shelving system creates a thickened field. The architecture is transformed by its occupation.
Two skylights pierce the vaulted ceiling, and a steel window system flood the space with light. The light bears the imprint of its lens, from the patterns of the skylight glazing and the window mullions. At times, the light is forceful and bright; at others, the light is mottled and soft. Different materials and finishes cast varying shadows and reflections. The polished concrete floor contrasts with the aged quality of the existing reddish-orange brick; white-painted interior walls create pockets of brightness. The combination of these materials heightens the all-around volumetric qualities framed by canted surfaces.
Unfolding from the shelving system, an oak-clad staircase leads to the second level, reserved for special displays. A moment of revelation, combined with close proximity to the vaulted roof, calls to mind a surreal penthouse that is one-third too short. Gaps in the stacked display boxes allow glimpses of the main retail space. The wedged edges of the boxes flatten perspective yet create alluring depth.
While Mameg assembles specifically curated pieces into the shelving and display system and throughout the store, Maison Martin Margiela uses a graphic language to produce effects. Working in conjunction with Johnston Marklee, the Maison Martin Margiela boutique uses trompe l’oeil via collage and appliqué. Taking runway photos, mundane objects, and unique textures, the boutique feels like a theater set. Image layers are plastered onto the existing walls, regardless of previous uses. Large doors are fixed to the walls, and glass cabinets are inserted into cut openings. Graphic wall paper and films printed with photographs of the original Paris atelier are plastered onto vertical surfaces. A neon sign creates a momentary distraction but reorients all guests to new views. Plastic champagne flutes are constructed into a full-height display tower. The assemblage of these disparate elements continue Maison Martin Margiela’s foray into a deconstructed image.
Together, the two distinct worlds of Mameg and Maison Martin Margiela present a solution of coherence through logics of multiplicity and difference of space and image.