Welcome TO Planet Coco
Acknowledged the world over as the doyen of refinement and luxury, New York architect Peter Marino has designed boutique stores for the famous French fashion label Chanel for more than 25 years. Over that time, he has been constantly innovative, originating trends in the hazardous globalized fashion industry while, at the same time, echoing the uniquely minimalist tailored style invented by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel at the beginning of the last century. The unchallenged icon of sophisticated good taste, the Chanel style has been able to capture and integrate the talents of strong personalities like the late Karl Lagerfeld who reinterpreted the Coco spirit, taking the Chanel myth into the new millennium and making it one of the most recognized fashion labels for haute couture, ready-made fashions and a vast array of accessories.
Tasked with redefining the Maison’s point-of-sale concept, Marino has been given a weighty responsibility. He is currently engaged in two parallel operations: the refurbishment of Chanel’s historic stores similar to what he did in Paris, London and New York, and the design of new flagship stores in many corners of Planet Earth, creating portals giving access to the fascinating, uniquely luxurious Planet Coco. The latest “spaceship” arrived last March in Seoul’s Cheongdam-dong neighborhood. The building itself is a monument to style: a three-dimensional contemporary sculpture in which rationalism becomes pure minimalism. Exteriors and interiors are seamlessly attuned, the color and density of the materials used creating an uninterrupted continuum throughout.
As already mentioned, the location is Seoul, currently one of the world’s fastest growing markets for luxury goods. In a recent interview, Peter Marino pointed out that since only one in every four people entering a Chanel store actually make a purchase, his job was to create spaces that induced the other three to return. Interestingly, although the Seoul flagship store is an exclusively female fashions store - with the exception of the fragrances counter - the outside of the building has a definitely virile look. In contrast to the exquisitely feminine elegance permeating the interiors, the asymmetrically stacked black boxes making up the elevation seem to echo the black box packaging of Chanel’s fragrances for men. The striking façade also stands in stark contrast to the regular street frontage along the fashionable Apgujeong-ro.
Black lava stone cladding and black glazing create a contrast of rough and smooth, reflective and matte in a tangible reflection of how traditional and modern can be combined. Extending over seven floors for a total surface area of 1,830 sq. m, the store is illuminated throughout by natural light from the glazed openings through which occupants have full views of the chaotic urban scene of Seoul, as if from another planet. Indeed, the stacked series of spare, meticulously ordered environments flowing one into the other creates a completely different dimension to the urban scene outside: a world of refined spaces in muted shades - calling them colors would be an exaggeration - where materials become furnishings and the simplest of structures display the full production range of the Parisian Maison. The ground floor acts as a filter between the outdoor public space and the main selling areas, which proceed up the first three levels interspersed by lounge areas that gradually increase in size to become wide double-height spaces with extensive glazed openings. A concealed entrance grants the brand’s best clients direct access to the sixth floor where they are given personalized VIP service, including private showings.
All the materials used to decorate the interiors allude to Chanel’s genius for innovative combinations that nonetheless have an aura of tradition. The sequence of different spaces is contained within a carefully thought out framework that could be defined as post-rationalist, and bring to mind pre-war
Italian interior design and the spatial dimensions of Mies van der Rohe. The various sectors are given a distinctive character with the different tactile quality of their surfaces. Custom plaster finishes are combined with French lava stone, white Greek marble, gypsum mineral stone, lacquer, painted canvas or suede.
Artworks are another major feature of the store, both Peter Marino and Coco Chanel herself generous patrons of the arts. Marino chose 31 artworks, of which four were especially commissioned for the Seoul store. Each reflects Coco’s spirit through the language of contemporary art. Noteworthy is the work by the French-Argentinian artist, Pablo Reinoso: an installation of his Respirantes series designed especially for the store -
a vertical surface of cushions in gray fabric that inflate and deflate mechanically, the breathing movement bringing the environment alive. Elsewhere, Sound Barrier by German artist Gregor Hildebrandt comprises rows of compression molded records stacked to a height of almost 8 m
to create a semi-transparent, translucid curtain rising between the second and third floor. The vertical vinyl forms are reminiscent of the strings of colored Venetian glass known as “murrine”. Among other featured artworks, those by Korean artists Lee Bul, Ik-Joong Kang and Lee Ufan.
The spaces contained within the reinforced concrete structure become increasingly spare and rarefied as the levels proceed. Connected by exquisitely fashioned, almost dematerialized staircases, each successive environment is increasingly diaphanous. After the fourth floor, the boutique really does turn into a spaceship of the sort Stanley Kubrick led us to imagine, filled with natural light and just a few rare pieces of furniture. The message: on Planet Coco, so masterfully recreated here on Planet Earth by Peter Marino, the very minimum equates with true luxury, a privilege available only to a select few.