Jay Gatsby would not look out of place inside the new Jacob Cohën flagship store in Milan. In fact, had the sartorially-savvy character worn jeans at all, the retailer’s denim constructions would likely have been his first choice: they offer maximum tailoring, personalisation and craftsmanship. So, when the Cohën team brought on interior design and architecture firm Area-17 to design the space, they had already their traditional, core values sturdily established: maintain a sense of laid-back elegance, comfort ­– preciousness, even. The key was to have a store that would reflect the denim itself.

We like the feeling of an ageing material: it becomes unique, more personal. It tells a story

Area-17’s mission was, then, to design a store that would ‘age like a pair of quality jeans.’ In order to achieve that collective goal, the Florence-based firm explored what the ageing process would be like for every material utilised in the design. The flooring and boiseries are walnut, both treated with a water-based varnish, so as to maximize the natural process of the wood’s lifespan. The cream-coloured, laser-cut walls, which are panelled in differentiating textures, are wood too, created by Italian craftsmen and treated with a concrete-based finishing. The brass was given a light protective treatment before the opening, but will never be polished again, not even during the cleaning.

‘We like the feeling of an ageing material: it becomes unique because of the signs of ageing, it is more personal, it tells a story,’ said Area-17 architect Federico Gigetti. ‘This is something very common for items of clothing such as a leather jacket or a pair of jeans, but it is true for building and furniture materials as well.’

Blue Japanese Kurakabo denim was used for the flowing drapes and capitonné decorative panels, a discerning stamp of identity for the Jacob Cohën brand. For the company, the client’s experience is one that should be ruled by the freedom of choice: those who shop at the flagship are given the chance to be an active narrator in the selection of everything from the model of the garment to the buttons. Because retail is changing in the digital-physical divide, not just in Milan but every city, Area-17 honed in on the elective affinities that arise between the retailer and the client to create a desirable environment.

Area-17 debunked the idea that the future has to look futuristic

Today, the internet still cannot provide the sensory details a physical space has the potential to unlock. As humans, we have a need to touch and see. With the Jacob Cohën flagship, Area-17 debunked the idea that the future has to look futuristic by reimagining the limits of traditional values. Instead of approaching modernity with overt technologies, they chose to instead embrace and trust the natural touch of time.