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NEW YORK — Beam me up, Roberto and Savania.
This story first appeared in the October 7, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Roberto Crivello and Savania Davies-Keiller’s new 2,500-square-foot DDCLab flagship at 7 Mercer Street in SoHo highlights the designers’ use of high-tech fabrics and performance design with Space Age elements, such as a hexagonal futuristic space pod, glass boxes floating in midair and plexi honeycomb tubing. The designers call the store “a modern Noah’s Ark,” where the dominant species is shoppers, and bits of the past and present reside comfortably with the future.
The duo, who met in 1992, founded a design studio that attracted clients such as Reebok, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap and DuPont. They opened their first DDCLab store on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side in 1997. “We’ve always been about keeping our heads down and doing the work without having to get the industry’s permission,” Davies-Keiller said. “There’s something amazing about seeing your concept nondiluted.”
As the Orchard Street clientele grew, the designers phased out their other clients. That is, until New Balance approached them to consult for the brand four years ago. They were named global creative directors of the activewear firm in August.
The fruits of the DDCLab-New Balance collaboration can be seen at the front of the SoHo store, where sneakers are displayed in glass boxes dangling from the ceiling. A limited edition model, $498, uses a silver reflective fabric made with crushed glass that glows in the dark. An abstract jungle gymlike structure displays sneaker pairs, which are laced together and casually thrown over the playground apparatus’ pipes like old shoes dangling from a light post. A large display and storage console made from found light and dark wood pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle holds yet more sneakers.
Electronic doors lead to the main part of the store. “This area is very high tech,” Crivello said, pointing to the space pod. “We’ve made fabric from spider’s webs, soy, corn and organic hemp.” The pair has developed climate control fabric that regulates body temperature and metal Inox that shield against the sun’s harmful rays. Jackets have antiradiation pockets to protect against cell-phone and iPod radiation and copper pocket details guard against identity theft.
Inside the space pod, a sheath dress in the silver sneaker fabric and lined with ruby fabric, $790, hangs next to a matching hoodie, $890. A hooded jacket with leather zipper pulls, $320, contains Tyvek, which is used in home construction.
In the center of the store, surrounded by pencil cacti and other foliage, salvaged wood beams transformed into a display table hold leather jackets and belts. DDCLab’s Lycra leather jeans, $798, have a unique construction where the Lycra is bonded to the leather. “They’re breathable, stay tight on the legs and have complete recovery,” says Davies-Keiller. “There’s no bagging.” The pants come in a rocker style for $900. A silver leather dress with seam details is $1,680.
A massive 50-year-old tree trunk from California looks like it’s growing from the patch of Astroturf beneath it. The nearby dressing rooms are covered with black leather curtains for an edgy look. The designers have carved out space in the store for an educational area with exhibits on how fabric is made, with raw materials displayed in clear plastic tubes. There’s a “syllabus” of reading materials for those who want to learn more.
Considering DDCLab’s rarified prices, consumers may want to know the backstory of a garment. For example, why does a trenchcoat cost $2,500? Because the fabric used the antielectro-magnetic field pockets is very expensive, Crivello said. Other pieces have labor-intensive finishing processes, such as a hand-painted shearling coat, $2,400. A jacket with a wood grain pattern embodies the DDCLab philosophy of blending high-tech with nature. The fabric, made from Japanese wood pulp woven with silk, costs $350 a yard. The jacket is $5,000.
The DDCLab designers have put everything they need within reach of the new store. The design studio is adjacent to the flagship, while the basement houses patternmakers, seamstresses and a lab where Crivello and Davies-Keiller experiment with fabrics and colors.
“We’re eventually turning all our DDCLab stores into this concept,” Crivello said of units in the Meatpacking District and on Melrose Boulevard in Los Angeles.