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LONDON — Gibó by Julie Verhoeven opened its first store last week in the heart of Mayfair, and the mood is deconstructive chic.
There are unfinished walls, mannequin heads with sketches on their faces and a 65-foot white leather sofa that inevitably won’t stay white for long, but the designer insists they “will add to the character.”
The store is on Conduit Street, which is home to Vivienne Westwood, Moschino, Issey Miyake and the über-cool club Sketch. It’s housed in the former Alexander McQueen store, which relocated when Gibó no longer operated it.
“It’s been a surreal experience,” said Verhoeven during a walk-through on Tuesday. “It was something I never planned to do, but it’s been great fun to work on.”
The space is more akin to an art gallery than a shop. The walls of the landmark building are canvases for Verhoeven’s famous illustrations. Drawn on semi-layered and ripped plaster, and alongside builders’ calculations, are her sketches of women’s faces, cats, patterns and other random scribbles.
Several cornices have been intentionally left to crumble. Even a water pipe can be seen through a hole in the wall.
“The builders weren’t too impressed with the way I wanted it,” said Verhoeven. “They think it’s a bad reflection of their work, leaving everything unfinished.”
By contrast, the 560-square-foot store’s fittings are sleek, with steel clothes rails that can be reconfigured to make them higher, wider or longer to suit any collection. The white sofa can be split into sections and rearranged around the store, and the changing rooms are also leathered-up with 360-degree mirrors.
Verhoeven designed the store with her friend, architect Cherie Yeo.
“I wanted something quite radical but at the same time something that people wouldn’t find intimidating,” Verhoeven said. “I hate those designer spaces that are all so uniform. I don’t think they’re healthy.”
The “shoe wall” is another quirky feature. The textured concrete surface has shoes hanging on removable transparent pegs, soles up. “Of course, the problem with this is that I’m going to have to start designing interesting soles.”
The facade is a blend of classic and ultramodern. The single display window at the front of the store pays homage to her current collection, complete with the oversized cardboard cassettes and squeezed paint tube used for her spring runway show. Porcelain mannequins are donned in silk blouson jackets and soft leather bags.
A second Gibó by Julie Verhoeven store will open in Milan in September.