The List’s Project Spotlight column features unparalleled projects created by our forward-thinking List members. By going straight to the source—and having the designers demystify the methods behind their designs—we hope to enlighten and inspire our creative audience to further push the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of design.
For more than a year, the men’s label O.N.S Clothing planned to open a bricks-and-mortar flagship in New York City’s tony Nolita neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the fashion capital of Soho. There’s perhaps no better home for the up-and-coming label, which has proven popular among city dwellers who demand versatile, well-tailored garments that feel relaxed yet don’t compromise on style. It’s likely because the brand’s founder, Brian Chung, grew up around textile manufacturing, and decided to launch O.N.S to satisfy the need for comfortable, easy-to-wear basics for his friend group of transplants living in cities around the world.
Chung enlisted the Hong Kong firm Collective and the local Tang Kawasaki Studio to design the boutique, which channels the relaxed downtown cool of O.N.S apparel while adding an array of unexpected touches. The interior, which transitions from pared-down wooden elements to a dynamic multicolor look and feel as one walks through, riffs on Nolita’s famed window display typology yet playfully departs from it. Visitors immediately encounter plant-based asphalt flooring—the first of its kind in a retail environment—that allows for a seamless transition from outside. Perhaps the store’s standout feature, however, is a 100-foot-long movable textile wall that sets the scene for groups of plinth-like product displays, which are custom cast resin blocks manufactured by Facture Studio.
Two weeks before the scheduled grand opening, the coronavirus caused all non-essential businesses in New York to close indefinitely, throwing a wrench in O.N.S’s plans. Opening a brand-new retail flagship in the midst of a global pandemic is an ambitious undertaking, but that didn’t stop Chung from keeping his eyes set firmly on the future. We chatted with Chung on the opening day to get the full scoop.
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Inspiration: Our brand is inspired by the mobility of urban transplants, city dwellers that understand the humbling experience of moving to another city. This project channels the experiences of someone walking over asphalt between different urban spaces. Through the color and size of our freestanding monolithic objects, we aim to bring our customers back to simpler times, like being a kid with untainted curiosity and energy to explore.
Takeaway: Building a flagship during a pandemic has given me deeper appreciation for flexibility. It requires close communication and empathy, grows from planning, and has no room for ego.
Challenges: The pandemic took the life of Marc Anassis, a tried-and-true shipbuilder, and the proud fabricator of our fiberglass objects, before the project was completed. The pandemic also brought great joy and addition to our lighting designer’s family. Beyond the emotional rollercoaster, we experienced a broken supply chain with our vendors, which forced us to make tough choices to move forward. The lack of continuity created more problems such as finishes not matching and color variances due to natural weathering. We were two weeks away from completion before the lockdown happened, and we needed six extra weeks to catch up on the progress.
Uniqueness: We chose to bring the outside in, utilizing an eco-friendly, no-odor, water-based asphalt product throughout the store. We’re the first ones to utilize this product in a retail setting. We also married Garriets, a theatrical curtain system, with Kvadrat textiles.
Impact: We can finally have our office, showroom, and retail all under one roof—a strategic move that I’ve been exploring for two years. Its completion sets us up for longevity and a better chance to cultivate brand loyalty. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to be a part of what I believe to be New York’s most energized leisure corridor, starting from Noah all the way to Kith, with ALD, Naked, Mejuri, Corridor, Aesop, Bluestone Lane and many more.