International style

To evening wear and casual clothing add flowers, books, homewares, cosmetics and food. The new Armani/Chater House store in Hong Kong is a world in itself
This boutique is clad in French St Maximin ceiling, floor, flooring, furniture, interior design, lobby, brown
This boutique is clad in French St Maximin stone.

Europe might still be the fashion design centre of the world, but Asia may well be its biggest market. One of the biggest attractions of cities such as Hong Kong andSingapore is the shopping, where boutiques from the world's largest fashion labels rub shoulders with stalls selling cut-price fakes.

To tap into the lucrative and high-potential Asian market, Europe's top fashion houses have been making a considerable investment in new or revamped stores. The new Armani superstore in Hong Kong is one of the latest examples.

The three-storey Armani/Chater House is the company's second-largest retail outlet in the world, after its flagship store in Milan, Italy. Its 2000m² of retail space includes the fashion lines Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Armani Jeans along with accessories, cosmetics, books, flowers, the label's new homewares range and an eye-catching cafe.

The Armani Group says the new store symbolises the commitment the company plans to make to the Chinese market in coming years, including the opening of a restyled boutique in Beijing and a new store in Shenzhen. The Hong Kong store is positioned in the city's Central District. The Giorgio Armani boutique faces onto Chater Road, while the Emporio Armani boutique and cafe face onto Pedder Street.

For the 1020m² Giorgio Armani display area, the eponymous designer worked with minimalist architect Claudio Silvestrin, who has designed the fashion house's recent stores in Europe, Asia and South America.

In the Giorgio Armani men's and women's collection areas, Silvestrin specified French St Maximin stone, a signature element of the label's boutiques elsewhere. The stone is also used on the exterior of the building, presenting a windowless fae§ade on the Chater Road side.

Mannequins are translucent to focus attention on the architecture, building, glass, interior design, shopping mall, teal
Mannequins are translucent to focus attention on the clothing.

Inside, the warm, creamy tones of the stone are contrasted with fixtures in ebony macassar timber and fittings in burnished brass. Silvestrin says the lighting scheme plays with areas of shadow and creates "sensations" eye-catching pools of illumination. Recessed lamps are used as spotlights to highlight wall contours or specific garments, while the other light fittings blend into the space to create an overall glow.

A glass staircase links this floor with the upper levels. Here, the clothing display areas and speciality boutiques have quite a different look, introduced by respected Italian architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas. It was their first retail project and features extensive use of glass, dramatic lighting and metal fixtures to create an almost futuristic image.

The glazed fae§ade on this side of the building provides views of a busy pedestrian thoroughfare, adding to the open, interactive feel of the space.

"The structure of the space has been freed from weight and mass by the use of curved glass walls, which are incised with abstract patterns," says Massimiliano Fuksas.

"Lighting fixtures are invisible and the floor assumes a neutrality, so the space is utterly fluid."

A continuity of materials and finishes runs through the boutiques on the second floor, which offer accessories, cosmetics, book and flowers. The 55m² Giorgio Armani Cosmetics is a prototype for the brand's expansion into mainland China.

This area is a café during the day architecture, design, product design, structure, gray
This area is a café during the day and can be opened up to become a lounge bar at night.

"Images are multiplied by the resin flooring like rippling reflections in water. With the flooring, ceiling, structures and partitions removed from sight, the visitor assumes a dramatic role."

On the top floor, the Emporio Armani and Armani Jeans collections are displayed over 780m². Steel fixtures and fittings are covered in a soft, translucent material, with recessed light fittings accentuating the curves of the display modules.

Also on this level is the first Armani Casa home furnishings store in Asia. Designed by the company's in-house architects to have a loft-like feeling, it features grey stone floors and platforms as a backdrop to the various settings.

Perhaps the star of the space is the Emporio Armani Caffe a cafe, restaurant, lounge bar and meeting space. A ribbon of red fibreglass twists through the 510m² space, dividing it into foyer, lounge, bar and restaurant, acting as a sculptural element and forming tables and bars.

Jul 18, 2003
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