Retail Interiors That Are L.E.FT of Center
In 2001, the three members of L.E.FT—Makram el Kadi, Ziad Jamaleddine, and Naji Moujaes—were working towards their bachelor of architecture degrees at the American University of Beirut. Four years later, the young New York-based collective has leapfrogged from theoretical projects and temporary installations to high-profile retail work: specifically, the interiors for a string of new boutiques for upscale clothier Intermix. L.E.FT’s first effort for Intermix, a store in the Bal Harbour section of Miami, opened February 11; others designed by the firm will debut in the U.S. and Tokyo throughout the next year.
The pairing of Intermix and L.E.FT may seem odd: Intermix’s current stores are not known for their interior décor, while, until now, L.E.FT’s ethos has been more political than commercial. But when a mutual friend introduced the members of L.E.FT to Intermix owners Khajak and Haro Keledjian, the latter were so intrigued by the architects’ idea of creating site-specific interiors that they hired the firm to design a slew of new Intermix outlets.
Viewing materials in the same way a fashion designer might, L.E.FT decided to use textiles prominently in the Miami store’s interior. Seats are made from layered and laminated cloth in summery, lightweight fabrics. Pink translucent shelves hold the merchandise, while opaque white curtains are draped around the store’s perimeter, hiding the backup structure of the racks system and other visual clutter. The dressing rooms are separated by opaque resin walls speckled with tropical flowers, as well as furnished with fuchsia-colored leather seats. Finally, to underline the parallels between architecture and fashion, L.E.FT dotted the store’s interior with functional fashion details, such as buttons on the drapes and stitching on the chairs.
According to the architects, a major inspiration for the store’s design was Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 1983 installation, Surrounded Islands. For the project, the two artists wrapped 6.5 million square feet of pink polypropylene fabric around the perimeters of 11 of the islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. The idea was for the shiny fabric to reflect the brilliant sunlight and highlight the surrounding environment.
L.E.FT is now working on Intermix’s Washington, D.C. store, which is scheduled for completion in late March, as well as two spaces in the Hamptons section of Long Island, New York, both of which are scheduled to open in May. Also on the boards is a redesign of an Intermix boutique on New York’s Madison Avenue. At each location, L.E.FT will incorporate local influences but keep the overall designs similar. For example, the Hamptons stores will feature striped curtains that allude to the cabanas popular in that beachfront community, but the drapery will still be in line with L.E.FT’s use of it in the Miami outlet.
While the Intermix commission was initially a departure for L.E.FT, it has allowed the firm to broaden its scope—and find some common ground with the commercial world. “The political permeates everyday life,” el Kadi says. “[The Intermix work] is more of a body-politic in the literal sense, as nowhere are we more defined than in a fashion store, in the way we want to dress and feel in our bodies.”