Improvization and imperfection are key to Cloud-9's latest interior, Atelier by Fapai, which is inspired by an artist’s atelier.
Originally from the Netherlands but now based in Shanghai, Karin An Rijlaarsdam – creative director of design studio Cloud-9 – has just shopped for vintage headscarves and picked up her visa for Iran when we caught up with during her recent visit to Amsterdam. The day after we meet, she will travel to the Middle East to start her research in Persian handicrafts, bearing witness to her interest in craft and product development.
Both of these interests are very present in her latest interior project Atelier by Fapai, a men’s fashion concept store located in Wenzhou, China. Improvization and imperfection are key to the design, which is inspired on an artist’s atelier. The store’s concrete floor is the result of experiments with a combination of lacquer, wax and coating, which results in a worn down finish. Bamboo rods – used to dry laundry on the streets of China – rest on metal structures, while a handmade ladder – typically used on construction sides – was customized with leather details, which recur in tailor-designed furniture and display elements.
The timing was slightly ironic, Rijlaarsdam jokes. ‘We finally found a contractor that delivers very high-end work, which is rare in China, and for this very concept we had to teach his team how to paint irregularly, damage the brick walls and leave imperfections as they are. The construction workers felt very uncomfortable at first.’
In the middle of the space, two large work tables are installed. Just like many of the other in-store elements, they are made out of reclaimed wood. ‘They take up expensive floor space,’ Rijlaarsdam mentions, ‘but are a big part of the concept too. The client wanted a tailor in the shop; we suggested adding a stylist. It is about the interaction – as if you are in the studio of a fashion designer, looking at fabrics, materials and colours together, creating custom-made outfits.
Most challenging was the shop’s location inside a brand-new shopping mall. ‘There was absolutely no daylight coming in, while the light from the corridor was extremely bright and white. Therefore, we blocked the artificial light from coming in with a suspended leather backdrop in the shop window, which – on the other side – serves as a display for the presentation of ties. In store, we made daylight windows by placing white-painted glass panels in front of LED lighting. It’s another reference to the artist’s atelier, where windows are often painted white to create the best light in which to paint.’
Photos Charlie Xia