Bureau Spectacular has designed the 2,000-square-foot flagship store for the Los Angeles–based Frankie, a high-end, ready-to-wear fashion house in L.A.’s Arts District. The retail space, which debuted Friday night with a red carpeted opening party, is the first store for the recently-rebranded label and is billed as a collaboration between Frankie’s founder Kevin Chen and Bureau Spectacular’s founding partner Jimenez Lai.
For starters, Lai designed the store’s exterior facade, a black and white geometric abstraction spanning the post-industrial brick structure’s primary exterior wall. Bureau Spectacular also designed the store’s spartan interior, populating the space with one of the firm’s trademark “Super Furniture” pieces.
The piece, when assembled into a single object, takes the shape of an eight-foot-tall staircase with a footprint of roughly 28 feet by 10 feet. This object is composed of nine geometrically complex components that are exploded across the store. Each piece houses some of the store’s functional components, such as display areas for art books and trinkets, enclosed fitting rooms, storage spaces, and point of sale consoles.
The project features the platonic geometries characteristic of Bureau Spectacular’s earlier work but marks a sharp shift for the designers—who are typically known for their designs’ bold colors and graphic qualities—with its stark white material finish. Lai explained to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) that the monochromatic turn was a recent one for the firm, with Frankie and the recent Tower of Twelve Stories installation from this year’s Coachella music festival encompassing opposite ends of a new line of architectural inquiry. The Coachella project, with its stacked mass of tumbling geometric shapes collected over two pairs of pilotis, was also painted completely white but features an alternating array of colored lights projected onto it.
With the firm’s Frankie piece, color is completely absent. Lai told AN via telephone, “In Southern California—or Los Angeles, anyway—when you paint something over with white, [the paint] deletes the materiality behind it. In both The Tower of Twelve Stories and Frankie, we are working with the idea behind ‘white.’” Lai described the contrasting geometric compositions of the pieces as embodying a tension between, “a ‘nice fit’ versus that of a ‘not very nice fit,’” with the visually dynamic Tower ascribing to the latter quality while Frankie, with its ability to explode and recombine back into a coherent form, aiming into the former. Lai summed up the project, saying, “[With Frankie], we are talking about a ‘nice fit.’”