If fashion is a work of art you can wear, then it can be said that architecture is a work of art you inhabit. With the increasing digital marketing and e-commerce presence of fashion companies, there has never been a more important time to present your brand within bricks and mortar. The importance of brand identity and of more recent brand architecture on our high streets play a key factor in making or breaking a sale (both through the door and on line). Thanks to this, the fashion architect plays a major role in this brand identity alongside the designer and marketing team.
One such prevalent ´starchitect´ is Peter Marino, who is currently the world’s most in demand designer for luxury fashion markets. The original founder of Peter Marino Architecture, Peter, (whose trademark appearance sports a Mohican hairdo and flamboyant ‘leather biker daddy’ aesthetic – to the amusement of his wife and daughter) has designed a succession of flagships and boutiques for a pervasive list of clients such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Calvin Klein and Christian Dior. His trademark interaction of space and light beside the integration of contemporary artwork has made him hot property as an architect and a world class art collector. His designs are currently credited with re-fashioning the benchmark for high end retail design and his consultancy has been nominated for a number of awards such as the covetable AIA Excellence in Design award.
´Quality, functionality, a gorgeous sense of light, and what I call a mixed rich cultural baggage. I entered architecture after years of painting and sculpture and art history, so I didn’t come at it from an engineering point of view. I was very lucky to make it through the educational system and become a licensed architect, because the system is skewed to eliminate people like me.´ – Peter Marino
Graduating from Cornell’s College of Architecture in 1971, Marino honed his craft by working in established firms such as Kidmore Owings & Merill and George Nelson before launching his namesake firm. His inauguration to commercial architecture began by designing residential properties for the Rothschild and Agnelli (Fiat dynasty) families several decades back. These commissions were received through a friendship he struck up with none other than Andy Warhol. It was back in 1985 when he seriously began to turn his attention to luxury retail projects after having been approached by the socialite Pressman family to undertake an extensive redesign of Barney´s department store in New York. This project was pivotal in raising Marino’s aesthetic and capabilities and igniting his relationship with labels like Tiffany & Co.
Peter Marino Architecture has previously undertaken a number of high profile commercial and cultural design commissions including more recently an art retrospective at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. To date, he serves in various international organisations as a consultant member to enterprises such as the New York Foundation for Architecture as well as recently being made a member of the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
´Architects have big egos. We like to think we’re creating the pyramids and they’re going to be around for thousands of years. And it’s a joke, because they’re not even going to last our lifetime. I built a home for umpteen gazillion dollars on a gorgeous piece of property in Palm Beach, and 11 years later somebody else bought it and knocked it down.´ – Peter Marino
Marino’s philosophy is to give every project its own clear identity and signature look, especially in commercial projects where creating spaces that are sexy and contemporary but also subtly encapsulate you in the brand’s heritage are compulsory. The palette in his most recent British Chanel project, match its iconic perfume packaging in every detail imaginable. Black, white, beige and gold blend into everything from the hand-detailed curtains to the specially commissioned artworks. Coco Chanel often displayed black ribbons, so the wall in the feature handbag gallery is covered with thick silk satin ribbons which are intertwined like a screen with cut-out sections to display bags. A clever nod to the brand´s heritage.
Surprisingly, the high end boutique range only accounts for 40% of Peter’s design portfolios. With a company of 180 people (100 architects, 40 decorators and everybody else in between) they specialise in mostly new buildings. ¨It is these designer boutiques which attract the most publicity. The rest of my portfolios are house designs for super wealthy people, and they don’t want to talk about it. So most of our best work is never published.¨
At the end of this year, his consultancy is due to complete 61 high end flagship stores (which he still calls boutiques) and is on a scale that he could never have imagined, even during the construction boom of the 90’s. He claims ¨ In 1991 if someone had come to me with a $1 million budget for a boutique, I would have fainted. Nobody spent even half that. But now, the bar has risen very high. You would be surprised at my budgets for 2024.¨
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald
Photography Credits: Peter Marino Architect