The new, temporary retail space Ecco Domani-winning menswear designer Siki Im created with the architecture firm Leong Leong dispenses pretty quickly with the standard store-design playbook. The pop-up shop, created in the HL23 space in West Chelsea that previously hosted Waris’ tea room and Richard Chai’s “ice cave” store, requires customers to take their shoes off before entering and wade through a giant ramp made of insulating foam—Im compares it to marshmallow—to get to two small shopping sections on either side. “I wanted to create a nonlinear retail space,” he explained, “a space questioning the purpose and meaning of a commercial hierarchy of racks, clothes, cashier.”
Big talk for a Friday night opening party. But Im’s menswear has always been about challenging expectations. (On view here: jackets that dangle from backpacklike straps; a thick-gauge scarf that threatens to overwhelm its wearer.) He constructs clothes like an architect as much as a designer—a nod to his training in the medium. Working with Leong Leong on the space, he said, “felt like architecture school again.” But while there’s a strong intellectualized component to his designs and an austerity about his constructions and mostly black palette, it’s the feelings of his audience he’s hoping to engage. Certainly the crowd that gathered Friday evening for food-truck pizza and a spelunk through the labyrinthine space was intrigued. “Our concept store is supposed to be more personal, and in a way an exploration and experience,” he said by way of explanation. “We ask the customer to participate by taking off their shoes and searching. It’s hopefully quite emotional.” If asking fashion types to part with their shoes doesn’t stir emotions, what will?
The Siki Im concept space will be open through November 15 at 504 W. 24th St., NYC.