NEW YORK — One of fashion’s original provocateurs, Vivienne Westwood, has opened a 15,000-square-foot flagship, here, that spans all six stories of a French Beaux Arts townhouse at 14 East 55th Street.
Westwood’s company billed it as the designer’s first New York store, however, Westwood in 1999 unveiled a 7,000-square-foot unit at 71 Greene Street, which subsequently closed.
The first three floors of the prewar townhouse comprise Westwood’s retail space. The upper floors are being used for showrooms, offices and a press and sales presence in New York.
Accessories collections and bridal are also on display. A salon for Westwood’s evening wear capsule is dedicated to showcasing and fitting demi-couture gowns.
The flagship also features a selection of original Worlds End collection pieces, otherwise available only at the seminal Worlds End boutique in London.
Westwood in 1970 started Worlds End at 430 Kings Road with her then-boyfriend Malcolm McLaren. Ruminating on the Worlds End web site about what she would tell young people today, she said, “We are dangerously short of culture — trained up as consumers and not thinking.”
The New York flagship has new architectural and interior design, created in collaboration with architect Simona Franci, a partner in Fortebis Group. The design reflects the brand’s DNA where the notion of elegance is deconstructed and restored through the use of raw sustainable and natural materials juxtaposed with refined and innovative details and finishes.
“The shop is friendly because it’s not finished,” Westwood said. “We didn’t cover up the plasterboard. Most of the interior walls aren’t structural. We didn’t want to cover them to make them look like real walls because they never do. It never works.”
Westwood said she likes the color of plasterboard, and therefore, left it bare. “It’s so neutral, but warm,” she said, adding that building materials can be seen exposed in plywood. “We decided this whilst the shop was being built and screws were showing,” the designer said. “It makes the place look temporary. Catch the moment, enjoy yourself and come and see these beautiful clothes.”
Westwood’s suggestion to “buy less, choose well and make it last” sounds like retail heresy, but sound-bites like that have made her an enduring symbol of the British avant-garde.
The designer describes the carpet at the new flagship as “looking like you just rolled it out — cushy to walk on,” Westwood said. “We made jacquard knits in the same design, which was inspired by an illuminated manuscript where a bunch of wild men are wearing animal skins. We copied the way the skins were drawn and blew it up for the carpet.”
Furniture in a similar pattern includes a sofa that looks like an analyst’s couch. Handbags are displayed in metal and wood cubbies, and wood and glass vitrines have wheels for maximum flexibility. For all of Westwood’s talk about impermanence and rough-hewn qualities, the store has a gloss of elegance with fixtures topped with gold finials and resting on gold satyr feet. A nod to Westwood’s days as an instigator is a T-shirt hanging in a display case that says “Revolution.”
Westwood said she’s always been inspired by the 18th-century furniture and ornaments in the Wallace Collection, a national museum in a historic London townhouse, which are made precious by combining many materials of different qualities. “We have our traditional iconography, satyr feet and orb.”
Kronthaler, Westwood’s creative director, design partner and husband, said, “My second wish after London was always New York, so this is a dream come true for me. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world. The building we have chosen for our shop has a great atmosphere and the area is perfect for us.
Westwood in 2011 opened a location in Los Angeles. “New York is an important step for us as a company, so we had to find a location which best represents our brand,” said Cristiano Minchio, Westwood’s Americas chief executive officer. “As soon as we opened the L.A. flagship, we started looking at different areas in Manhattan and found a great building with lots of history, which was once part of the St. Regis Hotel. I knew right away that it was everything we needed in terms of space, feel and location.”