Founded in 1988, Stephan Jaklitsch, principal of Stephan Jaklitsch Architects, has been recognized for his talent, hard work and creative executions worldwide. Having completed nearly 100 various projects to date, Jaklitsch has designed everything from homes, showrooms (Belstaff), stores and retail concepts (Moscot Eyewear). Jaklitsch’s latest venture involves seven new Marc Jacobs and Marc By Marc Jacobs stores worldwide that will be unveiled this year. With his long-standing relationship with Mr. Jacobs, Jaklitsch, has created the architectural vernacular for the brand. Their unique relationship is a hybrid of two distinct creative forces – architecture and fashion.
With locations appearing worldwide, WATM had the chance to probe Stephan’s mind and get to the root of his creative focus. With exclusive insights into his latest creations, here’s an exclusive look into the mind of one of the most innovative architects that our society has encountered. (Yale Breslin)
Photo Credit: Don Freeman
1. With 7 stores scheduled to open in 2009 - how did you get involved with Marc Jacobs? How did the two of you develop your working relationship?
It was through a personal referral to Robert Duffy, Marc’s business partner since 1984. Robert hired me to design his apartment and the working relationship led to his asking me to work on a showroom, the first store in San Francisco and the first store on Bleecker Street. Since then my firm has worked on hundreds of projects for Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs around the world. Robert is a decisive, intelligent individual with strong opinions and great taste. He respects that I also have very strong opinions and he likes to be challenged to think about things differently. We went back and forth a bit over the rear skylight in San Francisco; he thought it should be vertical and I really believed it needed to be canted at an angle. When he walked into the completed store he told a mutual friend that he really likes it when someone is passionate about something and they turn out to be right – and he used the skylight as an example.
2. What is it about Marc Jacobs and his collections that you and your work identify with?
Marc Jacobs pays extremely close attention to details, proportions and scale; and the collections themselves often express an understatement where the closer you look the more detail you see. These are the things I identify with. But the role of fashion and the role of architecture are different. The clothing changes every six months while the architecture needs to be more timeless. The strategy in the stores is to serve as an appropriate setting for the merchandise; to draw you in and let you explore without overwhelming the product. The architecture sets a tone for the brand and contributes to the experience.
3. With retail concept spaces opening in places such as Chicago and Hong Kong - where does your aesthetic vision stem from? What are the first things that you take into consideration from a design point of view?
Design really springs out of a variety of factors and location often plays a role. The Marc Jacobs stores are individually designed but they all reflect an overall brand image that is consistent from store to store – an image that we developed over many years. The “purity” of that brand image becomes affected by local influences and particular site conditions. When designing a new store, we always take into consideration the movement through the space and the arrival sequence, as well as how customers will perceive the space – it is a bit of theater. However, these considerations are often influenced by local factors: stores in Brazil require us to completely block off the view from the exterior for security while the stores on Bleecker Street in New York are completely open and address the street corner; the Collection store in the Palais Royal in Paris is designed to address the center garden and the grandeur of the historic monument impacts the design and overall feel of the store.
4. What is it about your work that you believe helps expand and enhance the "Marc Jacobs experience"?
The designs of the stores work in conjunction with the image of each brand. The Collection stores are intentionally more upscale and elegant than the more youthful Marc by Marc Jacobs stores. This is largely achieved through material selection. The Collection stores use natural wood and luxurious materials while the Marc by Marc stores utilize color, synthetic materials and glossier finishes. Although each brand has its own identity, the underlying architectural strategy is the same for both – to take into consideration the movement through the space and to showcase the merchandise. The architecture is intended to complement the product, not compete.
5. From all your Marc Jacobs projects that you have worked on - do you have a favorite project that you have worked on? Which one has the most sentimental meaning?
This is a difficult question – like asking a parent which is their favorite child. There are specific projects that are memorable for various reasons: the very first store we did in San Francisco, the Collection store in Paris’ Palais Royal, and the current one we are doing in Tokyo. The first store was a fresh challenge because it was defining a brand and it was a blank slate; Paris was a terrific opportunity to work in a world monument and respond to hundreds of years of history. We literally uncovered the original timber framing complete with axe marks and could identify all of the major renovations over the years. It was a once-in-lifetime opportunity. We are also very excited about the challenges and opportunity of doing our first full building that we are designing in Tokyo.
6. On a side note, tell us a little bit about the concept stores you have been designing for Moscot? How did this collaboration come about?
Almost all of our work is through personal referrals. Michael Ratner, of Richter + Ratner, connected the Moscot brothers to me because he thought we would be a perfect match – and he was right. The project has been an ideal experience. Harvey and Kenny Moscot wanted to update their brand and present it in a new way without sacrificing their history – a history very much connected to their own family. The two had different ideas about what they were trying to accomplish and at times it felt like I was playing referee between two siblings! It was classic and it was a lot of fun. Harvey deeply cherished the brand’s history and was more reluctant to change; Kenny was much more willing to push the envelope and see what we could come up with. With that in mind, we took a decidedly analytic approach. We examined their existing conditions and presented what we thought was working and what wasn’t – making it less personal. In the end, the result seemed to be a perfect mix. Harvey and Kenny absolutely love the design and have both gotten terrific feedback. It was also rewarding to hear that sales were up significantly in the remodeled space, even in today’s tough economic climate.
7. Where do you see your firm in 10 years?
We are in the middle of design for our first free-standing building – a retail structure in Tokyo, and we are also starting a product design company. I love to be challenged and am very interested in exploring the various scales of design – from products, homes and commercial interiors to free-standing buildings. I am also deeply interested in urbanism and the design of public space and would like to pursue work that helps to raise the quality of urban life.