Squire and Partners were selected by the RIBA and American retail brand Brooks Brothers for the 2014 Regent Street Windows Project, which pairs architects with flagship retailers to create stunning architectural installations in the windows of shops, restaurants and cafes along and around Regent Street for a three week period coinciding with London Design Festival and London Fashion Week.
Our design for Brooks Brothers, the oldest American apparel brand, was conceived following a discussion about shared values of heritage, craftsmanship and quality. Brooks Brothers had an extraordinary history, having been retail innovators from the outset and dressing American icons from US Presidents to cultural icons like Andy Warhol and Kermit the Frog.
Brand and Heritage
Liaising closely with the Visual Merchandising and Marketing departments of Brooks Brothers, we chose to concentrate on the strength of the brand and its heritage, rather than the product itself, whilst clearly communicating the precise tailoring of a Brooks Brothers product. The concept draws on the iconic Golden Fleece, the historical symbol of wool merchants and the Brooks Brothers trademark since 1850.
The design concept featured two crafted sculptures comprised of the over eight hundred handmade sheep suspended on golden threads which combine to make two Golden Fleece, the precise construction of which illustrates the immaculate detailing of a Brooks Brothers product. One sheep 'chandelier' is encased in a box lined with hand applied Dutch Gold leaf, the other in Brooks Brothers blue pinstripe. The two sheep mirror each other in separate windows providing a shimmering spectacle for passers-by.
Design investigations took place over several weeks to determine how the sheep chandelier would work best – initially hanging from golden threads which were later changed to thin metal rods to increase stability – without compromising the overall shape of the chandeliers. The window display area was very tight with limited access, which had to be factored into the design.
Crafting the Golden Fleece
Since a 3D model of the Golden Fleece logo did not already exist, our modelshop spent several days handcrafting a master from scans of existing logos, which included the elaborate tied ribbon from which the fleece is hanging. Once we had settled on a fleece mould, we had 800 sheep injection-moulded in resin then metallised to display their gold colouring.
Madison the Sheep
In addition to the two hanging chandeliers, we were keen to extend beyond the window and out onto the pavement with a life size cast bronze sheep to provide an element of playfulness and interaction to the overall display. We approached British sculptor Jonathan Saunders to create the sheep, named 'Madison' after Brooks Brothers' Madison Avenue store. Originally moulded by hand in clay, then cast in resin before the final bronze version, Madison was created by Jonathan working with UK foundry Nelson & Forbes.
The windows were installed overnight, between store closing time on Sunday 31 August and opening time on Monday 1 September. With such a complex installation this was a mammoth task, which took a twelve-strong team from Brooks Brothers and Squire and Partners over fourteen hours to complete.
Each individual metal rod had to be inserted into the panel on site, which made for a fast paced game of bingo to match rods to holes, after which the sheep were hung facing in the same direction. Backing panels of gold leaf and navy-blue pin stripe were carefully installed behind the hanging chandeliers.
Outside the store we positioned Madison the Sheep (who weighed a hefty 250kg) onto the pavement with a pallet truck, and chalked hoofprints from her base to the two store entrances.
The Finished Display
The installation was on display from 1-21 September during London Design Festival and London Fashion Week, after which it was transported to Milan where it will be displayed at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile and Expo 2015.
One of the most rewarding parts of the project was seeing public reactions to the installation – children (and adults) clambering onto Madison having followed her hoofprints along the pavement, people stopping to photograph the chandeliers and engaging in their intricate detail. It was also a fantastic opportunity to work with the RIBA, the Visual Merchandising/Marketing departments of Brooks Brothers, and a host of other architects taking part in the project.