Marc Jacobs International
Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects
Asked to describe what his company was like 15 years ago, Marc Jacobs International president Robert Duffy says breezily, “It was teeny.” Today the fashion powerhouse is heading toward $1 billion in annual sales, with two flagship stores and an IPO. “I just say the most important thing is that everybody remain calm,” says Duffy.
Remaining calm in an industry where “in” can be “out” in a blink involves partnerships—partnerships that Duffy and designer Marc Jacobs have carefully cultivated for years. Back in the late 1990s, when the company was just a 10-person team and beginning its first foray into retail, Duffy enlisted New York'based architect Stephan Jaklitsch to help the label shape an architectural identity. Together they have grown the brand to 285 freestanding boutiques.
At first, Duffy and Jaklitsch, out of financial necessity, selected unique but unlikely properties—a former dentist office, a Laundromat, a rug shop—on which to sow a fashion empire. Other labels soon followed suit. Bleecker Street “sort of became a mini'Madison Avenue” after their store opened in 2002, says Duffy. In addition to its three already existing stores on that street, the company recently opened Marc Jacobs Beauty.
“Fashion is consumed very quickly,” says Jaklitsch, principal at Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects. “The struggle is to design something that stands the test of time.” Marc Jacobs's 2006 Paris boutique in the historic arcades of the Palais-Royal exemplifies the balance between timeliness and timelessness. From the original cast iron structure to 17th-century ax marks in the timber, “the whole palimpsest of the place's history was there,” said Jaklitsch. The architect, influenced by Jean-Michel Frank's 1930's designs for Guerlain perfumes, employed a sumptuous material palette of marble and sycamore. Curved glass and nickel vitrines (inspired by an Art Deco meat locker Duffy spied at a Parisian flea market) serve as displays for the merchandise.
Three years after the Paris boutique opened, Jaklitsch transformed the fashion designer's 7,700-square-foot SoHo showroom and office in New York with similar custom shelves and racks (which display fall's poodle-ish fur coats), sliding mirrored panels, and furniture by Christian Liaigre. In the executive office, Jacobs and Duffy share a desk. “When we first opened, the clients were shocked because we used to have such a dump upstairs,” says Duffy.
As the company prepares to go public within the next few years and preparations are made for two new New York stores, Duffy is recruiting an in-house architecture team to be overseen by Jaklitsch. “You can't replace someone who understands the DNA of the company,” he says. Adds the architect, “Good architecture really depends on an intelligent and decisive client; you cannot have good design if the client isn't pulling their weight.”
Both are mum on the details of the new stores, but, according to Duffy, the Marc by Marc Jacobs flagship will be located on Fifth Avenue. “Now we have to move on to where the big boys are.”
Architect: Jaklitsch / Gardner Architects — Stephan Jaklitsch, Mark Gardner, principals
Engineers: Paris — SARRC (structural), Bureau D'Etudes Fluides (mechanical); New York — Hage (structural), Loring (m/e/p)
Consultants: New York — Cooley Monato, Axon Design; All Projects — L'Observatoire International (lighting)
General Contractors: Paris — Schmit Tradition; New York — Apogee Design & Construction; Tokyo — Kitano Construction; D. Brain
Client: Marc Jacobs International
Size: Paris — 1,700 square feet; New York — 7,700 square feet; Tokyo — 2,800 square feet
Completion date: Paris — February 2006; New York — 2009; Tokyo — December 2010
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