Neil Barrett’s new flagship store opened in Tokyo with the help of a mighty collaborator—none other than Zaha Hadid. Though the world-renowned architect has recently experimented in fashion design, this is her first retail space project. The duo teamed up with Patrik Schumacher to create a shop that shifts between architecture and sculpture, designed to parallel the same folding, pleating, cut-out and fixed-point design ethos utilized in the brand’s clothing. On the ground floor, towering, curved display racks anchored in the center of the vast space look like they must have some secret, hidden function. By contrast, the upstairs houses womenswear in a cozy space with lower ceilings, but an equally eclectic shelving system that folds and curves to create a circular, continuing space. These architectural concepts will be rolled out to all of the brand’s flagships worldwide. Neil Barrett himself made a rare trip to Tokyo for the opening, where JC Report caught up with him about instinctual design, making it big in Japan and word-of-mouth advertising.
JC Report: How involved were you in the concept of this shop?
Neil Barrett: When we sat down to discuss what we were going to do, Zaha came up with a concept in the first ten minutes. She knew exactly what she wanted to do, and I loved it. It’s just like when I design my collection—if I don’t like the design right away then I throw it out. If it is not eye-catching enough to get someone’s attention when walking past it on the racks then it’s garbage. The design of this shop was equally instinctive—Zaha, Patrick and I were on the same page of what the shop needed to be about.
JCR: Why choose Japan to unveil the new look?
NB: I had been thinking about opening a new shop in this Aoyama district for a while now. It was natural to debut the design here, because if you can make it in Japan then you can make it anywhere.
JCR: Isn’t that what they say about New York?
NB: In fashion commerce it really is about Japan. They’re vastly fashion conscious—it’s hard to compare to anywhere else—and they pull off my designs so well. It is the perfect place to start before rolling out the designs to my other shops.
JCR: Your designs are rooted in classicism but Hadid’s are largely futuristic. Are you now focusing on the future?
NB: Definitely. It’s not so symbolic, though. I am hoping to expand my retail and focus on my collections—I have been able to perfect the cutting of my menswear for a great slim fit, but I’m still perfecting my womenswear. It’s not there yet, but close. Also I don’t rely on advertising—I don`t use ads at all—so I am hoping the word continues to spread like it has. I’m really grateful for that.
JCR: What about the distant future? One hundred years from now?
NB: Well, I’ll just be dead then!
This interview was conducted by Misha Janette