Walk down any New York City street and among the storefronts, there is one thing you are sure to happen upon: a building boarded with plywood that, if taken down, reveals a work in progress inside. Perhaps the concrete walls are intact or covered with bare Sheetrock. Maybe brick peeps through a peeling paint job. Whatever the case, if these walls could talk, they would murmur the same ethos: the evolutionary spirit of New York City that is as ubiquitous as it is unique.
This is precisely what Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, the newly minted creative directors of DKNY, had in mind for the brand’s SoHo location. One of the designers’ earliest memories of DKNY is the SoHo Wall on Houston Street; more than a wall, it became a landmark for them. The same can be said of this redesigned 480-square-metre space that extends from West Broadway to Thompson Street. The interiors were crafted in collaboration with Swedish architect Andreas Bozarth Fornell, whose portfolio includes Acne Studios, Sandro, and Opening Ceremony. The store is more than a microcosm for the city that has inspired the iconic house both past and present; it serves as the foundation for yet another fixture on its streets—the uniform-clad DKNY woman.
Half-painted drywall speaks not only to the tension between construction and deconstruction, but mirrors the reconstruction of a DKNY classic: the pinstripe power suit. The designers’ take on traditional tailoring for their debut collection emphasizes the female form—strong shoulders, cinched waists, wide peak lapels. But in the spirit of juxtaposition, there is no tough without tender. Pleating and draping techniques add femininity to exaggerated silhouettes while satins and silks soften unfinished hems and fraying edges. Every aspect of the space—sheer drapery, sisal carpeting, climbing greenery—gives an added layer of dimension that speaks volumes of the dualities the designers intend to explore in this next chapter for the brand.
Also part of this is a continuing support for women in the arts, a tenet of the house since its founding in 1984. Hence the New Women’s Project, an enterprise in partnership with the New Museum that will provide a platform for five international artists to exhibit. After all, women inspire the work of the New York–born and –bred boys, who have also dedicated a section of the retail space (once home to Mary Boone Gallery) to showcase collaborations with artists.
The environment the designers have created pays homage to the great women of DKNY’s history while shaping the even greater women of tomorrow, and takes its inspiration from the material gestures definitive of a city that is always under construction. True to the vision for its reimagined store, DKNY will remain a work in progress—just like the city it was born in, and to which it wholly belongs.
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