MIYAKE’S MIX OF DESIGN EXTREMES

Byline: Anamaria Wilson

NEW YORK — Staying true to his unconventional roots, Issey Miyake has forged ahead with the opening of his Frank Gehry-designed flagship at 119 Hudson Street in TriBeCa. Although businesses in TriBeCa have suffered dramatically since Sept. 11, the company expects the TriBeCa Issey Miyake store to do approximately $4 million in sales its first year. Despite fears of paltry foot traffic, a Miyake spokesman said sales have been brisk, and they’ve been averaging between 150 to 200 customers a day. “We’re so pleased with the support from the neighborhood,” said Eishun Yamada, president of Issey Miyake USA. “The results have been encouraging so far, and we are optimistic about our future here in TriBeCa.”
After a September debut was postponed due to the attacks, the 15,000-square-foot boutique finally opened on Oct. 19. Designed by Gehry and his protege, Gordon Kipping, the space is part retail store, part art gallery and part atelier.
Given Gehry’s fondness for sculpture, it’s no wonder there is a massive, rollicking titanium sculpture winding its way through the ground floor, while pop graffiti murals by Gehry’s son, Alejandro, fill two walls. The architects wanted to preserve elements of the landmark building by leaving the wood beams, old windows and cast-iron facade intact. The rest of the store is a tribute to modernity with blond wood floors that have zigzagged glass cutouts, 13-foot ceilings, white walls and stainless steel countertops. Miyake’s idea was to create a different kind of shopping experience, one that is “free, malleable and can move as needed.”
Known for his innovative approach to design and his use of experimental techniques, Miyake’s collaboration with Gehry seemed natural. “Architecture, like clothing, is something you feel. You can design using unusual concepts,” said Miyake.
Gehry sees similarities in how both men approach design. “I think Issey and I may be after the same thing in our work,” said Gehry. “We’re both trying to express movement, and we’re both trying to play around with new materials that haven’t been used before.” With that in mind, Gehry set out to create movable stainless steel clothing racks and shelving tables so that the store’s setup could be changed on a whim. Industrial stairs lead down to the basement level where there is a showroom, a smaller retail space, a common area and the company offices. The store will also showcase the works of new “talents” like emerging artists, designers and architects.
By combining these elements, Miyake hopes to create “a space that is interactive, totally foreign and always surprising.”
As for the location of the flagship, Miyake grows philosophical. He was drawn to TriBeCa because “the skies are still open and wide,” and the city is inspirational, especially in these times, he said.
“New York is an amazing portal through which to channel energy. That energy is created and fueled by the passionate people who live and work here,” added Miyake.
Apart from the arts element, however, visitors are reminded that this is also a clothing store. All six of Miyake’s apparel lines are sold here including the women’s and men’s collections, Pleats Please, A-POC (A Piece of Cloth), Haat, and Me — the last three are bowing in the U.S. for the first time.
The 10,000 square feet of selling space makes for an interesting jaunt through Miyake’s design vision, particularly the global and technical influences he incorporates into fabric and cut. The store houses a wealth of Miyake looks with everything from folkloric tops and bottoms, the trademark pleated pieces, innovative knits and striped, cotton suits for men. Prices start at $295 for women’s cotton stretch shirts, $465 for three-quarter length skirts and $1,430 for wool peacoats.
Accessories like Alain Mikli-designed sunglasses, limited edition titanium watches and fragrances are also for sale.
Relocating the company’s flagship to Manhattan is a tactical move for Miyake. While the $200 million company has 40 stores in Europe and Asia, there are only four in the U.S. — all of which are here. Issey Miyake USA executives hope the new flagship will grant the firm greater exposure, boosting its U.S. profile.
Currently, 50 percent of the company’s business is wholesale. The women’s and men’s collections are sold at Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus. At this point, however, the company has no additional plans for further expansion.