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Bella figura: Dolce & Gabbana's remodelled London store is a subtle recasting and refreshing of the Italian fashion firm's image.

'Our Dolce & Gabbana boutiques create a private and sophisticated world. In some there is even a VIP room,' reveals fashion designer Domenico Dolce. And even without a VIP room, London's Old Bond Street store, which reopened late last year, expresses exclusivity; being there on a busy Saturday afternoon feels like the first promising hours of a glamorous cocktail party, both elitist and embracing, and alive with tantalising possibilities.

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'Dolce & Gabbana represents our love for details, translating the Made-in-Italy tradition into new realities,' Dolce continues. In contrast to the D & G brand, which is youthful and energetic, here the emphasis is on quality and luxury. By working with architects the Italian duo has sought to convey these values through the experience of the boutiques; they have produced an elegant interior environment that is simultaneously internationally recognisable and contextually responsive.

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'The architect creates the building, the designer the dress, which in some ways is a house for the body,' explains Stefano Gabbana. 'The closeness of these two art forms can help strengthen the messages they want to communicate.' A sentiment the pair evidently takes seriously--the boutique's previous design was by architectural heavyweight David Chipperfield. This more recent concept, which was introduced elsewhere over five years ago, was generated collaboratively with AR Emerging Architecture winners +ARCH taking the lead on the architecture (AR December 2006) and Milan-based architect Ferruccio Laviani the interiors.

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The London boutique's latest renovation needed considerable internal rearrangement. Previously menswear had been entirely in the basement and only accessible by a staircase at the back of womenswear, which occupied the whole of the ground floor. The new design gives equal presence to the women's and men's collections both from the street and, coming through the newly central entrance (previously to the right), in the first interior space. As you walk in, part of the men's department is on the left (with a relocated staircase offering direct access to the basement) and the women's to the right.

'The Dolce & Gabbana customer doesn't like to wait,' says +ARCH partner Francesco Fresa, 'so we have concealed the stock in furniture around the shop to make the service quicker.' Although the interior follows very clean lines and is minimally detailed, its simplicity is animated by the choice of materials and a few special elements. Gabbana adds: 'There is a harmony of contrasts, where large chandeliers in black Murano glass (in the women's area) reflect themselves in shining steel and a multitude of mirrors.' Here the back-painted glass and lacquered fittings form a black backdrop for the colourfulness of the women's collections. However, in the men's area--where garments tend to be in dark tones--more varied surfaces have been introduced, such as smoked mirrors and highly lacquered American walnut.

First introduced by Chipperfield, the black Basaltina stone floor has been replaced throughout the store, as a continuing reference to Sicily (the inspiration for many of the pair's earlier collections and Dolce's childhood home) where it is traditionally used to pave the streets.
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Title Annotation:interior
Author:Hunter, Will
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:508
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