Shop Until You're Blown Away is the message of the new Tribeca Issey Miyake shop designed by Frank O. Gehry and his former protégé, Gordon Kipping of Manhattan-based GTECTS. The designs of the eternally experimental Japanese couturier have always carried a whiff of chaos: the shoulderless shoulders, the strange silhouettes, the never-before-seen fabrics, the glaring absence of buttons and seams.
And when the new shop was still a gleam in Miyake's eye, he made a studio visit to Gehry in Los Angeles and walked away with a vision of a Gehry "tornado" whipping through space, transforming everything in its path. Of course, Miyake, like so much of the architecture world, wasn't immune to Bilbao Fever.
"The Tornado" is now the name of the 25-foot-high titanium column-like structure which dominates the Hudson Street shop. It's pure Gehry -- and yet if you squint you'd swear you're looking at a classic pleated Miyake dress (fitted on Nike of Samothrace). Extending from a shaft emerging from the cellar floor to a turbulent sprawl engulfing the ceiling of the ground floor, the Tornado does energize the whole room, both engaging and provoking the shopper.
It's not for the faint-hearted, but what Gehry or Mikaye design is? "I think Issey and I may be after the same thing in our work," Gehry says. "We're both trying to express movement and play around with new materials that haven't been used before."
New York is accustomed to artistic multi-tasking in designer shops: think Jeff Koons at the Hugo Boss store on Fifth Avenue and Jenny Holzer at Helmut Lang in SoHo. Rei Kawakubo not long ago enlisted Cindy Sherman for her marketing campaign for Comme des Garcons. This fall, Rem Koolhaas, pet Prada architect and recently appointed Conde Nast advisor, will publish his monograph on shopping and its role in reshaping architecture. With Tribeca Issey Miyake, the fashion world trumps the Guggenheim with the first-ever Frank Gehry downtown.
No question once it opens its doors on Sept. 11, 2001, Tribeca Issey Miyake will become a stop on the cognoscenti's crawl through downtown New York, but a strictly crass, pragmatic level, it's also designed to move merchandise. And here there's much more Miyake to shop -- including collections previously unavailable in the U.S., like the new A-POC, Miyake's most conceptual collection to date. (Based on the fabric cut-outs of, literally, "A Piece Of Cloth," it's fashion's version of scherenschnitte).
The ground floor's 3,000 square foot retail area, where both women's and mens' collections will be sold, features a glass floor "island" which affords shoppers a glimpse of the cellar-floor showroom (to be frequented by the likes of Anna Wintour) as well as the private offices of the Miyake staffers complete with custom Gehry furniture.
"The glass heightens your sense of walking through the entire space," says Gordon Kipping. "There's always an element of discovery." Another traffic flow device is the Gehry-designed double-height stainless steel "stair walls." There will be a series of installations of to-be-named visual artists as well as two permanent murals by Alejandro Gehry (son of), which Kipping describes as having a "post-apocalyptic Japanese animation feel to them." The latter will thematically connect the two main shopping areas. "There's a lot of playfulness," says Kipping. "People should feel happy and excited shopping here." Blown sideways, in fact.
The shop itself is three floors of a restored 1888 warehouse at 117-119 Hudson, the landmarked Spice Building. The façade will remain the same, though appropriate to the happening hang-out the interiors are destined to become, the architects were able to get approval to strip off what Kipping refers to the "nasty beige and burgundy paint" which covered the metal work and instead to apply clear coating, which would reveal the original, hyper-industrial silvery blue gray. "A minor coup," thinks Kipping.