Yves Saint Laurent: Where art and fashion collide

Richard Gluckman is rapidly building a reputation as one of New York's foremost architects, with a host of interiors for art galleries and fashion stores. His latest project is a combination of the two, a menswear boutique for Yves Saint Laurent that will showcase the work of young artists. By Ian Phillips. Photographs by James Rexroad

You could be excused for suspecting that architect Richard Gluckman is conspiring to take over New York's Wooster Street. Standing on the pavement at the heart of SoHo, he points to a bookstore across the road. "We did the interior of that," he announces, and then proceeds to rapidly reel off an impressive list of other projects he has completed on the same street. "You should take a look at number 99. We did that. Number 136. We also did that. The Tony Shafrazi Gallery at 119 and the Dia Earth Room at 141. We did those too."

Now, he has also "done" the Yves Saint Laurent menswear store, which has just opened at number 88. It is the first of its kind, the start of a new generation of YSL boutiques and a complete break with the stores of the past. It follows the decision two years ago by Saint Laurent chairman Pierre Berge to bring in designer Hedi Slimane to revitalise the house's decidedly classic menswear line. It has proved an extremely smart move. In no time at all, Slimane has turned the label into one of the hottest fashion tickets around. "The success of the collection led us to think we could not stay with the same slightly conservative store design," says Berge. "They were fairly adamant about creating a new image," confirms Gluckman.

"We wanted something that would not look too much like a clothes shop," explains Berge. "And as it is SoHo we decided to create a sort of half-way house between an art gallery and a boutique. At Saint Laurent, we have never separated art and fashion. We know very well that fashion is not art, but we believe that there is a very strong link between art, contemporary artist and the creation of fashion."

In the past, Saint Laurent was closely associated with Andy Warhol (a screen print of the designer hangs in Berge's office). In the courtyard of his first menswear store on Paris's Left Bank was a sculpture by Niki de Saint-Phalle and now the front section of the new New York boutique will be dedicated to installations - to be changed every three months - by young artists. The first will be devoted to 34-year-old French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, who is best known for his work with glass.

Given the link to the art world, Gluckman seems to be the perfect choice for the project. He may have designed the Gianni Versace store on Madison Avenue and the Helmut Lang SoHo boutique, but most of his projects have been art-related (the Lang boutique was even inspired by a Tony Smith exhibition). His most famous work is the Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea (1987) and since the beginning of the Nineties, he has completed more than 40 galleries in Manhattan. He is also responsible for the interior of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe and the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. He is currently working on a new Picasso museum in Malaga, contemporary galleries for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Mori Museum of Art in Tokyo, and his most significant project to date - the Austin Museum of Art in Texas.

The latter is Gluckman's first major free-standing project (all his work to date has been renovating existing buildings) and he is tickled pink by the commission. Drawings of it are proudly displayed on a long wooden board that runs down one side of his TriBeCa office. Models of various other projects are scattered about. Near the entrance is a free-standing store for Versace in South Beach, Miami (he was due to get the designer's go-ahead the week Versace was shot dead). Another model is of a house he is building for himself at Orient Point, Long Island.

Gluckman is softly spoken and eloquent. There is something reminiscent of Woody Allen in his slouchy posture, the form of his mouth and his almost apologetic demeanour. He was born in 1947, the eldest of three children and had what he describes as "a typical bourgeois existence" in Buffalo, New York. His father was a printer and, at the age of 10, Gluckman came across the word "architect" and decided to be one. While still at architectural school, he built his first house - a holiday home for his parents on Fire Island, near New York.

After setting up his own practice in 1977, he was commissioned to design a New York townhouse for the couple behind the Dia Center - Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil. They introduced him to artists such as Don Flavin and Donald Judd, and his art projects led him into retail after Versace discovered a couple of the galleries he had designed. "Since doing the Versace and Helmut Lang stores, we have been approached by other design companies," he says, "but have turned them down. I now don't want to be too closely associated with interiors. However, Yves Saint Laurent is a company you just can't turn down."

He was more or less given carte blanche for the store. However, he seems disappointed that he did not get to meet the reclusive Saint Laurent. "I worked directly with both Gianni Versace and Helmut Lang. But, in this project, the individual is once removed," he explains. "So, in a sense, it was what we imagined Saint Laurent to be, not what we know him to be."

The new store contains many parallels to his art projects. The design is spare, the walls white and the interior of the boutique not visible from the street. Gluckman has placed smoked-glass screens in the store front and instead of window displays he plans simply for images to be projected onto the glass.

There are more screens in the main part of the store. They run from floor to ceiling, are lit around the edges by fluorescent light and were inspired by a Bill Viola installation. Between each are the cantilevered racks for the clothes. Both sides of the store are lined with 30ft-long brushed- aluminium cabinets. For the dressing room walls, he has chosen an "ambiguous" material - glass backed with metal - but has draped the inside of them in the Saint Laurent fabric par excellence - grain de poudre.

In the basement is another new departure for Saint Laurent - a VIP room, where celebrities will be able to order made-to-measure clothes that will then be run up by the menswear studio in Paris within a month. "It's not going to be luxe," says Gluckman of the design, "but it will have more comfortable furniture and access to the coffee machine."

Whether they be VIPs or not, Gluckman views shoppers rather like the cast of a play. "The more confident people who go into these stores see themselves as the main character in a kind of pas de deux with the designer," he asserts. "In a sense, we're designing an environment in which this sort of drama takes place, with a supporting cast of sales people. In many ways, we're just the set designer"

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, 88 Wooster St, SoHo, New York 10012 (001 212 274 0522)

News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEpic YouTube video features boundary-pushing staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    PHP Developer - MySQL, RDBMS, Application Development

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Developer - MySQL, RDBMS, Applicatio...

    SAP Business Analyst - Data Migration, £75,000, Manchester

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP B...

    SAP Data Migration Consultant, circa £65,000, Manchester

    £55000 - £75000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP Data Migration ...

    SAP Data Migration Consultant, circa £65,000, Manchester

    £55000 - £75000 per annum: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP Data Migration ...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star