By and  on April 8, 2005

MILAN — Leave it to Viktor & Rolf to literally turn designer retailing on its head.

The Dutch design wizards’ first signature shop just opened here with an upside-down decor that has oak parquet on the ceiling and chandeliers sprouting out of the floor.

“We wanted to give a new perspective on a shop,” said Viktor Horsting who, with Rolf Snoeren, designs one of the most conceptual collections in the business. “You really enter into a surrealistic world, the Viktor & Rolf world, where nothing is what it seems to be.”

Architect Siebe Tettero, who worked with the two designers on their stately new headquarters in Amsterdam, said that, when they approached him with their need to “twist the classic,” he opted to revisit the neoclassical style, which he described as the most “recognizable and familiar” design.

“There is a whole world of Nordic, Dutch and Swedish 18th-century variations on this style,” said Tettero.

Accordingly, the 750-square-foot store features all the archetypal elements of neoclassicism: intricately carved columns, capitals, an entrance flanked by two archways and double columns. “Symmetry is quintessentially neoclassic,” said Tettero.

The decor was entirely made by Italian craftsmen, who re-created the store in their shop to check that every upside-down fret was just right before installing it into the actual space on Via Sant’Andrea 14. “We took shots and turned the photos upside down. When the illusion was complete, we knew the store was ready,” said Tettero. The TV set showing the designers’ runway show is also upside down, encased in a white cabinet modeled after an 18th-century Swedish tiled stove. In each of the two rooms, there is a fireplace flanked by chairs, with mirrors above them.

“Well, underneath them, in this case,” Horsting corrected.

The architect also emphasized the preciousness of details, such as the chandeliers’ pure gold leaves and true crystal drops.

The women’s and men’s collections are housed in cabinets that line walls painted “middle gray.” The cabinets are shuttered by mirrors at night to give the space a pristine, gallery-like ambience — albeit a twisted one — with the logo welcome mat plastered to the ceiling.

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