Once upon a time, in the age before literacy was widespread, tradesmen and merchants placed large symbols outside their business establishments to identify themselves to passersby: the striped pole of the barber, the three golden balls of the pawnbroker, etc. Many of these were a common sight on city streets right into the early 20th century.
But eventually, symbolic signage was replaced by word-signage, and then by graphic branding. The businessman’s symbol of old expressed something about the nature of the business – the barber’s pole was illustrative of his semi-medical activities performing bleeding therapy. Today’s branding is often more of an alternative representation of the business’ name: Target stores’ red bullseye logo, or International Business Machines’ distinctive three blue initials.
The Christian Dior flagship store in Seoul, South Korea, brings the arc full circle. The front façade of the store is an enormous symbolic representation of fabric, curved, flowing fabric folds that specifically reference Dior’s deployment of toile, and more generally, the company’s position in the worldwide fashion industry. This front section is the women’s store, a layered façade that occupies the corner with a statement as elegant as it is ostentatious. In a video tour available online, entrance to the store is rather suggestive of walking in underneath the hem of a gargantuan formal gown.
The block-like building behind it is the Dior men’s store, clad in aluminum panels.
The 4400 m2 store, gallery and cafe was designed by Christian de Portzamparc in association with local architects DPJ & Partners, with interior design by Peter Marino Architect, and completed in June 2015.
The fabric-inspired panels are, in fact, fabric: glass fiber “frozen” in hardened polymer. They are self-supporting, approximately 6m x 20m, and made of glass-fiber composite cast on large wooden molds.
Images via DPJ Partners and contemporist.com, as noted.