Adjaye plays a strong suit with flagship store for Ozwald Boateng

Pamela Buxton

When bespoke tailor Ozwald Boateng had the chance to move his retail outlet to Savile Row, he approached David Adjaye to devise a contemporary yet sophisticated store. Photographs by Lyndon Douglas

All the best tailors want to be on Savile Row, the short stretch parallel to London’s Regent Street where you can still glimpse cutters in their basement workshops and livery specialists working on the finery of distant eras. But not all of them want the typically understated Savile Row look, least of all Ozwald Boateng, the bespoke tailor and Givenchy creative director known for his adventurous colours. So when Boateng had the chance to move from nearby Vigo Street to a flagship space three times as big on Savile Row, he approached David Adjaye to come up with something that better suited his contemporary-with-a-twist tailoring.

These days, Adjaye Associates has largely moved away from retail interiors towards major new-build architecture. But a client like Boateng was too good to miss, even if the schedule was tight (just eight months from first contact) and the budget less than lavish. “This was a special case, and it appealed to David,” says project architect Rosie Pattison. “Sometimes it’s nice to have the variety.”

The 600sq m site was unusual, made up of not one but three units of a recently refurbished building. Together, these created a plum corner site plus a potentially difficult long narrow space leading 30m to a small shop window at the back of the store. Although not listed, the site is in a conservation area.

Boateng and Adjaye wanted a contemporary look, but certainly not the brash, in-your-face contemporary of Abercrombie & Fitch at the other end of the street, with its topless male door staff and blaring music. Nor did they want to follow the light, fresh, parquet and whitewashed timber approach of bespoke tailor Richard James across the street.

Instead, the architect went dark and atmospheric, creating an interior of largely black, chocolate and purple hues and relying on dramatic lighting to illuminate the garments and show off their colours and textures to maximum effect (see box). This design stands out a mile on Savile Row — but for all the right reasons.

Within the store, Adjaye aimed to create a series of varied “encounters”. The first is the plush accessories area at the front of the store, where Boateng’s signature purple is used for bespoke display furniture in combination with purple seating and an aubergine carpet for a touch of regal luxury.

Clever lighting gives centre stage to the merchandise, best demonstrated in the display feature of 16 units opposite the entrance, which is created out of humble MDF with a matt internal finish and gloss external finish. When lit by integral recessed LEDs, the cabinetry becomes invisible and all you notice are the clothes.

Then the mood shifts to black in the long “catwalk” that runs the length of the space. Here, the floor is covered in black ceramic tiles and the wall is taken up by the store’s key display furniture — a long, open “wardrobe” of black oak veneer that draws customers down the walkway to the back of the store.

After the darkness and richness of the bulk of the store, it is a shock to walk into the bright, white room
at the rear of the space.


The wardrobe is divided into suit-width compartments, each displaying a single jacket with a pair of shoes underneath. But this sparse display is highly deceptive — remove the jacket and the back of the unit can swivel to reveal hanging stock. More ready–to-wear stock is housed in cupboards at the top of the unit, taking advantage of the generous 3.5m floor-to-ceiling height. The unit has the flexibility for shelves and hangers to be added or taken away to reconfigure the merchandising as needed. In another ingenious touch, five pivoting mirrors are incorporated within the wardrobe structure. Staff can simply pull them out when needed, then tuck them away when the customer has gone.

Opposite the long wardrobe are four changing rooms, each lined in a tactile turquoise fabric with green carpets. When glimpsed briefly as the curtains are parted, the interiors are intended to suggest the rich lining of one of Boateng’s coats. A similar associative idea is used on the adjacent till and packing point, with its rich gold laminate wall.

Further down the walkway, customers requiring made-to-measure clothing will be ushered into the bespoke room. Here, the atmosphere changes to a richer, more decorative design than in the rest of the store. Also, the lighting is far brighter to give a true impression of the fabric and fit as customers are measured up. Their suits are designed and made in the basement studio, which was also designed by Adjaye Associates as part of the project.

Walls and ceilings are covered in a heavily grained macassar ebony veneer, which is cut into strips and installed with shadow gaps to look like traditional panelling, and combined with floor to ceiling mirrors. “We liked the macassar veneer because it had a lot of character,” says Pattison. “We looked at lots of different options but always knew it would have to be a dark wood because Ozwald’s previous bespoke room [in Vigo Street] had a lot of mahogany.” The rich wall treatment is combined with vintage seating and a heavily grained sideboard also brought from Boateng’s previous shop, and a dark brown carpet. A carved wood chandelier tops the room off.

After the darkness and richness of the bulk of the store, it is rather a shock to walk into the bright, white room at the rear of the space, intended as a conscious reference to the private galleries of nearby Cork Street. The space will be used for occasional displays of art or objects rather than for Boateng’s own creations. Appropriately, it’s in complete contrast to the rest of the store, with white flooring tiles, lighting and mobile display units. This area leads to the rear display window and exit — useful if any of Boateng’s famous clientele need to slip in discreetly.

The architect had most difficulty with the facade, in particular getting conservation area approval for lowering the window upstand so the shop window can display a full-length suit. Eventually it won through, helped by the Savile Row Strategic Group of tailors and landlords, which was very supportive of the highly contemporary design. For if Savile Row is to retain its special identity, the group is well aware that it needs the flair and style of the Ozwald Boatengs and David Adjayes of this world.

See product gallery for more information on products specified at Ozwald Boateng’s Savile Row store.

In the architect’s own words: Lucy Tilley, Adjaye Associates’ project director, explains the shop’s lighting

We used a lot of dark colours in this space. A lot of Ozwald’s garments are very brightly coloured and the main thing was that they stood out. We knew we didn’t want it to be ultra-bright like a high street shop but we wanted customers to see the product. Lighting really has an effect on what you sell and how much.

We brought in lighting consultant Lightworks very early on to advise us throughout — it’s really important to have that support in a project where lighting is so crucial.

Lightworks advised us to use halogen lighting for the long wardrobe display because that gives the best colour rendering, and we hung it from a 30m-long recessed lighting track in the ceiling. We mocked up a wardrobe unit to test the structure and the lighting, and as a result ended up concealing the fluorescent lighting strips more in the unit.

We also tested the halogen spotlights and the distance they needed to be from the unit, plus the angle and the shape of the diffusers — they can be either elliptical or round. Light fittings are from Flos’s Compass Spot range with the low voltage QR111 lamp fitted with integral glare shield. They are black as they had to be very discreet.

Integral recessed LEDs are used in the shirt display unit opposite the shop entrance. In the nearby accessories area, the ceiling-based halogens needed stronger lighting to counteract the light coming through the lightbox display units.


In the bespoke room, the lighting was more about atmosphere. Spotlights display the small number of suits hanging on the wall, and a samples display unit that
will be added soon. Recessed fluorescent strips are used round the edge of the room for atmosphere, with a chandelier from the previous shop in the middle.
At the back of the shop in the gallery space, the halogen luminaires are cylindrical rather than conical for greater simplicity, and the lighting is white to match the rest of the space.

Also in: BD Magazine - Retail - May 08

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