New York-based architect Stephan Jaklitsch has designed retail stores around the world for the Marc Jacobs brand, including stores opening in Chicago, Macau, Singapore, Mexico City, Thailand, and Hong Kong this year alone. Yet the Marc by Marc Jacobs store in Milan, which opened in April, truly can claim to be unique for the company. For the first time, the Milan store, located in the historic Brera district known for its tony boutiques, cafes, and cultural attractions, combines retail with a café concept that complements its particular location on the Piazza del Carmine.
Although they are maintained as two separately functioning spaces—the hours differ and the café has an independent operator—the design mission was to create a seamless transition from retail to café. Jaklitsch admits, however, that he and the client “went back and forth as to what that should look like.”
The same signature materials define Marc by Marc Jacobs stores worldwide. These include a mix of custom “Marc” blue steel shelving; clear, blue, and mirrored glass; navy blue concrete floors; neon signage; and custom displays that create what Jaklitsch describes as a “refined industrial” aesthetic. In the café, Jaklitsch took that palette and rendered it even more sophisticated with the addition of white marble, blue leather, and polished stainless steel design elements. “The store and the café don’t have any dividing walls,” he explains. “They are visually connected through a sliding blue glass door, which creates one continuous space when opened.” During the day, when the retail space is operational, the sliding door stays open, but it is closed at night while the café stays open until 2:00 am.
Lighting also plays a key role in defining the particular characteristics of each space. “The store had to function in a certain way,” says Jaklitsch, but the café had other needs. During retail hours the café serves cappuccino, croissants, and other light fare. However, “At night, the space takes on a very moody atmosphere,” he notes, as neon lighting transforms the café space into a nightclub serving aperitivo. A series of large window bays creates a sense of openness that minimizes the barrier between inside and out, and assure that both retail and food service functions are engaged throughout the day with the social atmosphere of the piazza.
“The combination of the store and café will extend the reach of the Marc by Marc Jacobs brand by providing a place for those who enjoy the Marc Jacobs lifestyle to congregate,” says Jaklitsch. “Milan, with its café culture, seems like the perfect place to create a dining experience that reflects the vibrancy of the Marc by Marc Jacobs’ brand.”