Nick Leith-Smith’s latest collaboration with Manolo Blahnik is in one the world’s most iconic retail areas, in Omotesando Tokyo. The project is the latest in a 16-year working relationship between Nick Leith-Smith and Manolo Blahnik – a partnership responsible for over 60 stores globally. The store in Tokyo is one of the most highly anticipated retail openings of the year and brings the fashion label to the world-famous Tokyo district. Omotesando is as renowned for its star architecture as much as its international shopping.
The store’s impressive double height glass façade reveals a beautifully crafted shuttered concrete slab structure behind. Set across two separate floors the expansive 168 square meter space is organised with the women’s collection on the ground floor and men’s upstairs. The open galvanised steel slatted ceiling shows off the concrete and inner workings as a futuristic and crafted High Tech marvel. This is further expressed in the window shelving system, a custom designed technical system of tension cables connect the ground to ceiling slab supporting aluminium shelves with integrated lighting.
The conversation started with Manolo Blahnik delivering his inspiration: “Bauhaus Sanitorium”. The resulting space juxtaposes the colour palette and eccentricity of Walter Gropius, with the clinical, even utilitarian aesthetic of a Mid-Century sanatorium.
The store is largely defined by gallery shoe display areas in materials such as shuttered concrete, brushed and polished stainless steel. A dramatic 6 metre long steel table acts as a dramatic display spine through the middle of the main entrance floor. The impression is a utilitarian and minimal interior providing a powerful backdrop for the intricate and colourful shoes.
In stark contrast is the clinical serenity of the ‘retro-futuristic’ environment the trying on areas are defined as Bauhaus salons. These are created with deeply-padded Gropius style chairs, vertical ribbed padded walls, and a rich multi coloured checkerboard carpet. Designed for comfort, this juxtaposition creates a members’ club feel in keeping with Manolo’s elegant living room aesthetic.
Ascending the staircase to the men’s floor, the customer is faced with a dramatic gallery corridor, a contrasting polished steel wall on one side contrasts with a deep padded wall on the other.
The distinctiveness of the shoes presented on brushed steel cylinder drums offers a dramatic contrast to the restrained reflective backdrop. The crescendo to this dramatic sequence of spaces is the men’s salon, a powerful semi-circular plan form facing the full height shop front. The geometry is enhanced by a semi-circular rug pattern and pendant lights that pinpoint 5 exquisite shoes elevated in the shop window.
Adding a heightened sense of occasion to the customer experience, there is a place to safely place coats and bags; slippers available while browsing; discreet charging points and a carefully concealed whisky cabinet on the men’s floor.