Anand Kabra Fusion Couture

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For our retail studio, we were given a 4600 sq. ft. leasehold (mall or streetfront as appropriate), and asked to find a cutting-edge international fashion designer and create a boutique for them. This was a special challenge for me, because I have never been interested in fashion because most haute couture is so unwearable on my frame. I looked at designers from Korea and India especially, and settled on Anand Kabra as my designer of choice. The boutique’s design was to reflect the future direction of our designer’s three most prominent design elements. In my programming, I analyzed Kabra’s past work, the characteristics and demographics of my King’s Road site in Chelsea, London UK, and the needs of the store.

See the programming report (PDF 9mb).

The client brief emphasized use of perimeter wall space and mobile fixtures for merchandising. Most of Kabra’s clothes would display best hung on mannequins or hangers, because they emphasize drape. So I planned the boutique as being an open space with stock storage and a wall fixture system complemented by freestanding racks and a large display island.

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Early zoning plan of sales floor
detail panel system
Sketch of track-and-cable system

The wall displays were broken up into sections by a track-and-cable system used to suspend panels in overlapping arrangements much like the logo. These panels needed to be easy to rearrange, so that as new seasonal colours and imagery arrived, and the mix of stock shifted, they could be changed quickly by just one or two employees. For small items such as jewelry and scarves, I used plinths and niches, as if this were a gallery or museum, to highlight Kabra’s chosen items for the season.

When developing the concept, our scope included branding. I often use the graphic design of the programming report, logos, and such materials as a way to ease into how the concept should feel. In this case, the logo is abstract but also makes reference to Kabra’s Indian origin and influences through the boteh (paisley) shape. The theme colour is a heavily mixed tertiary that is almost but not quite neutral, used in one of his collections. The typefaces were chosen for feeling personal, modern, and welcoming.

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Sample of branding.
Le Corbusier- Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, 1954
Light streaming into Notre Dame du Haut. Photo: Rory Hyde.
Terraform sculpture by Robert Cannon.

Kabra’s primary design elements are line developed into form, colour, and pattern. Kabra changes silhouettes almost every season, but his forms are always feminine (hence the typefaces chosen), and frequently return to the swirling lines of the Nivi-draped sari. I wanted to keep things simple and mostly use straight lines and flat planes, but I could not resist adding some sari-inspired S curves to that. Those few prominent curving elements give the whole plan an organic feel.

For the island, I was inspired by photos of Le Corbusier’s Ronchamps chapel and Robert Cannon’s terraform sculptures. The island was needed to anchor the center of the space, and its mass created a natural divider between the lounge on one side and a set of display niches on the other.

Kabra changes colours and patterns every season, and so my palette for the boutique was a mix of warm and cool neutrals ranging from white marble through olive wood to black leather. I used a great deal of more textured, often rougher materials, to highlight the shiny, silky materials Kabra often uses. The ceilings, for example, were mostly finished in plaster resembling stone, with gentle bumps and creases. This made the shop less vulnerable to becoming outdated. Seasonal colours and motifs can be added through the track-and-cable system and a pair of bulkheads meant as blank canvases. While the project was not fully specified, I emphasized sustainability in the materials I chose, and tried to create a design that would not need to be torn out and replaced in a few years, but could be selectively updated, for less wasted material.

See the Flickr slideshow of the presentation book (opens in new window).