From the point of view of location Aoyama, one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Tokyo, is the perfect place for staging the Dolce & Gabbana play. Situated at an in- tersection, even the façade of the unique new boutique creates the impression of a weighty curtain made of ele- gant marble, broken up by a series of slashes of cool white light, which give a subtle foretaste of the designed articles and the fashion spectacle awaiting the onlooker inside the store. With light in the leading role. Suppor- ting roles are played by materials such as gold and mar- ble, sophisticated projection techniques, shadow design or purposefully included zones of darkness. The screen- play for the piece in this case takes the form of a cleverly developed boutique concept born of architecture and design.
The concept revolves primarily, and for all acts, around a new interpretation of stage lighting effects to illuminate the fashion clothing, shoes and accessories. This is achieved using 400 directional spotlights and a number of projectors, which are mounted on the ceiling on the two floors in the store, and can be addressed and con- trolled individually. The space where the fashion items are displayed becomes a spotlit platform for all the high- quality fashion products on sale. Given the angle of inci- dence of the bright light emitted by the ceiling-mounted luminaires, the garments on show cast demonstrative, dramatic shadows on the walls and floor, and lend the dark, somehow restricted space enhanced depth. This also helps bring out the distinctive features of every single fashion item and underscores the colours and the quality of the products.
In short, this exclusive boutique takes the form of a retail space which is dynamically swathed in sharply defined illuminated surfaces and areas of darkness, con- stantly alternating, vying for attention next to each other or in conjunction with one another, light purposefully switched on or off. Given the black walls, the dark flooring and the angular – also black – furnishings, the
narrow stage-like space initially comes across as being grim and gloomy. Only through the specific use of light does the setting begin to look meaningful and determine the impact of the overall space. The directional spot- lights and the projections, which generate imitated marble across the floor surface or the impression of large windows on the walls, are harsh and cold, but simply perfect for highlighting every single warm-coloured product clearly and yet minimalistically.
The first act in this stage piece receives eye-catching support from a shiny golden staircase in the centre of the space. Light pours down the stairwell walls, which are also golden, from a gash between ceiling and walls, ren- dering the bright structure the initial centre of attention – it is the “majestic” way in for the shopper, of course. The golden glow spreads serenely throughout the rest of the building, underlining the fact that the striking structural element that has been so openly but cleverly integrated into the architecture forms the backdrop for everything that happens in this particular fashion scene. Definitely the centrepiece for the second act.
All the aspects that contribute towards the design of the boutique are built around generating the sunny atmosphere associated with Sicily. The design concept is based on the idea of incorporating the Italian roots and original creativity of the Dolce & Gabbana brand into this exclusive fashion boutique from thousands of kilometres away. The sunlight typical of the south of Italy is said to be strong and direct, plunging towns and countryside into a clear pattern of light and dark depending on the position of the sun. In the boutique in Aoyama the lighting design is not immediately reminiscent of the special geographic or climate conditions related to Italy. The interpretation is more abstract. And yet: some of the mannequins dressed in classy fashionwear from top to toe indeed look as if they are standing in bright sunshine and casting shadows accordingly to show themselves at their very best to attract the gaze of potential customers
in the third act. The greatest hint with regard to climate and geography is the golden staircase, the aura and golden glow of which does remind one of the warm sun in southern Italy – a bold step on the part of the designers when you consider the significance of moon- light in Asian cultures.
The Dolce & Gabbana boutique in Tokyo is all about light. Quite simply because of the precise way this most important design tool has been applied to realise the design concept for the top fashion brand. It is only through the targeted use of light that the presentation areas in the fashion store are defined and the products on display adequately and successfully highlighted. Without light even the noblest of fashion garments remain literally in the dark. In other words: light brings spaces, surfaces and objects to life. In this case, like on a stage, the spotlights highlight the key players – high- quality clothing and accessories, rendering them more than just visible. The “auditorium”, the space where the audience is, is kept in the dark so to speak to ensure attention is focussed on the stage, the costumes, the props, and the overall performance in several acts.
Architecture and design: Curiosity Inc. – Gwenael Nicolas and team