THE RAINBOW COALITION
A COLOR-CODED BOUTIQUE LETS CUSTOMERS KNOW WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THEM.
Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
A firm friendship was the jumping off point for a colorful collaboration between the SoHo-based designers of the DKNY Madison flagship and a pair of Gotham transplants-turned-Los Angeles retailers. When KBond owners Karen Kimmel, an installation artist, and James Bond, a music video art director, decided to put their art and commerce theories to practice in a boutique, they enlisted Hal Goldstein and Mark Janson to help shape and execute their vision in a 2,000-square-foot corner space at 7257 Beverly Boulevard.
As in most modern-minded stores, the pocked concrete floor remains untouched, and the walls are mostly white. From there, every notion of retail convention is challenged. “We provided a backdrop for many kinds of different things to happen,”said Goldstein. “Which doesn’t mean we created an empty space.”
For the benefit of passersby, a legend is marked near the entrance, on one of the many picture glass windows. The four-striped reference was conceived to direct programming: red represents new product delivery; blue signals a sale; green, an upcoming event, and orange, a Web site update. Colored light fills three floor-to-ceiling scrim dividers (stock is organized by Classic, Sport and New Designer), nightly revealing what is going on in the store according to the legend, as well as on a wallet-sized card distributed at the front counter. Post cards and e-mails sent to customers are also colored accordingly.
Most every fixture is custom made, mostly under the direction of Kimmel and Bond. Neatly folded shirts sit inside drawers of modified flat files. Hangers and racks suspended from the ceiling are cut from brushed metal. The UltraSuede covers on the long narrow ottomans can be changed according to whim. “Another object to manipulate,” noted Kimmel.
A highly polished chrome half pipe in the wall offers purified water on tap, a cup dispenser and trash receptacle. All clothes are steamed with an infuser of a distilled custom KBond essential oil. Even the cactus planters outside are changed regularly, filled with colored shattered glass or wrapped in a rainbow of colored yarn.
The oversized back mural wall, seen from the street, serves as a canvas for an installation artist, featured every two months and allowed to imprint other sections of the store with art or product.
“The artists play with meanings of what is art and what is a consumer product, but nobody feels compromised,” said Kimmel, pointing out datebooks, toiletry bags and other items produced through a collaboration with artists. “We bring in people who like to teeter on the edge. Art gets to be art, and it doesn’t have to sell.” Of course, the cool set who arrive in droves for the opening night artist parties rarely leave empty-handed.
Added Goldstein, who is currently working with Giorgio Armani to revamp the A|X concept and design the Emporio Armani store in SoHo: “A lot of retailers talk about flexibility. But it takes a whole other level of commitment, energy and creativity. Karen and James have that. It’s not just a stagnant space with art and clothes in it. Art and fashion are being informed by each other.”