“The difference between ‘fast fashion’ and luxury retail is giving the customer a unique experience,” says Gwenael Nicolas, designer of Dolce&Gabbana’s (D&G) new six-story London flagship. “Especially in the age of Pinterest, the challenge is to make spaces that you only fully understand by being there.” The Old Bond Street store is the latest example of D&G’s new retail approach in which a global identity has been dropped in favor of bespoke, site-specific interiors; it is the third to be completed by the French-born Nicolas’s Tokyo-based studio Curiosity. Its design seeks to induce a sense of the surreal through optical illusion, exploiting the “baroque poetry” of stone.

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Having agreed with D&G cofounder and designer Domenico Dolce that a monochrome palette would convey the “strong, elegant” essence of London, Nicolas sourced more than a dozen types of stone from four continents. They include jet-black granite and glittery white marble, alongside several richly figured varieties containing both colors. Laid in bookmatched patterns for the floors, the variegated stone has pronounced wavy stripes that evoke flowing rivers, subtly encouraging customers’ progress through the enfilade of spaces on each of three retail levels (the three stories above those accommodate an appointment-only “atelier” for couture customers). Stone also marks the vertical elements used to guide movement, from the linings of deep doorways to the store’s centerpiece staircase, descending through the three floors like a viscous swirl of molasses. Black granite balustrades appear to dribble onto white stone steps, an effect achieved by waterjet cutting so precise that the joints are nearly impossible to discern with the eye or the fingertips.

On the upper retail floors, the dreamlike ambience is enhanced by the use of reflection to play with perception. Black stone–lined niches containing jewelry displays are set into mirrored walls so that they appear to hang in space as flat, graphic panels. Stepping inside causes a momentary double-take. Seemingly secret doors in the black stone walls reveal another surprise: small consultation rooms whose walls are padded with black damask, like outsize jewel cases.

Opulence is also suggested by florid gold antiques and walnut-lined, gold-carpeted fitting rooms. But elsewhere, says Nicolas, “if you remove the stone, it’s actually quite a minimalist space.” Off-white plaster walls are enlivened only by a subtle baroque motif in relief, and the custom furniture—though beautifully made—is light and unobtrusive. These elements make a recessive backdrop against which to show D&G’s richly colored, “jeweled” clothes and accessories, presented like paintings within polished walnut frames that seem to float free of the walls.

These moments of focus draw on the art of retail merchandising and the science of cognitive psychology. “Understanding natural human behavior allows us to aid orientation or create surprise and confusion,” says Nicolas. Products are arranged so that the eye tracks from left to right and low to high, following viewers’ instincts. Similar thinking informed the lighting design. “To make something disappear, you can either hide it or duplicate it,” says Nicolas. With low ceilings limiting the ability to conceal fixtures, the polished plaster surfaces are instead strewn with many more twinkling spots than are necessary. “If there are five, you see them; if there are 50, you don’t,” he says.

Like the meandering grain of the floors, the lighting—arranged not to cast shadows—helps to make customers “feel as if they are floating in space.” This mild, pleasant sense of disorientation is their reward for visiting the store, an experience that social media cannot replicate. “In retail, you usually create that sensation with smell or music,” says Nicolas. “If you can create it with the space itself, that’s magic.”



Curiosity Inc.
2-13-16 Tomigaya Shibuya-Ku
Tokyo, 151-0063 Japan
Tel: +81 (0)3 5452 0095
Fax: +81 (0)3 5454 9691]


Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Gwenael Nicolas


Interior designer:

Gwenael Nicolas



Dolce & Gabbana stores and properties department



Dolce & Gabbana stores and properties department


General contractor:

Arco Arredamentio, Arredamenti Battaglia, EXA group



Alessandra Chemollo


Structural System

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:

Staircase structure work (GF-2F) (3F-5F) Ceolin srl.


Exterior Cladding

Arco Arredamentio, Arredamenti Battaglia, EXA group

(for all the below works)


Metal panels:

Metal/glass curtain wall:


Precast concrete:


EIFS, ACM, or other:

Moisture barrier:

Curtain wall:



Arco Arredamentio, Arredamenti Battaglia, EXA group, Budri Italian Marble Inlay

(for all the below works)


Metal doors:

Wood doors:

Sliding doors:

Fire-control doors, security grilles:

Special doors:

Upswinging doors, other:


Interior Finishes

Arco Arredamentio, Arredamenti Battaglia, EXA group, Budri Italian Marble Inlay

(for all the below works)

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:

Paints and stains:

Wall coverings:


Plastic laminate:

Solid surfacing:

Special surfacing:

Floor and wall tile:

Resilient flooring:

Carpet: Besana Moquette

Raised flooring:

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Budri Italian Marble Inlay (Marble supplier)



Arco Arredamentio, Arredamenti Battaglia, EXA group, Budri Italian Marble Inlay

(for all the below works)

Office furniture:

Reception furniture:

Fixed seating:




Other furniture:



Lighting designer: Barbara Balestrieri

Lighting supplier: Flos, DGA