July 1, 2008
A Boutique Fit for Darth Vader
Lara Bohinc’s new jewelry shop embraces its dark side, with help from an unusual plastic.
In Sloane Street’s sea of white-walled fashion chains—an endless glitzy stretch from Giorgio Armani to Yves Saint Laurent—the jewelry designer Lara Bohinc’s new store is a black sheep. The small London shop, which opened in February and was designed by the Dutch-Slovenian architecture firm Elastik, is more bunker than boutique, more hideout than high fashion. Mysterious, black, rocklike formations house equally primordial-looking jewelry. “It’s very dark, very monumental,” Bohinc says. “It’s like a tomb.” The secret is Kerrock.
Kolpa, a Slovenian materials lab, introduced the plastic in 1991 for use in bathroom walls and kitchen countertops. It looks and feels like polished stone, but you can bend and carve it as you would metal or wood. Elastik’s two partners—Mika Cimolini and Igor Kebel, based in Ljubljana and Amsterdam, respectively—wanted a material that could handle the same kind of sharp curves that wrinkled the temporary, fabric-walled store they set up for Bohinc in Hoxton Square six years ago. Stone, Bohinc’s original idea, wasn’t going to work. But Kerrock would.
Cimolini, Kebel, and their carpenter heated up slabs of Kerrock and vacuum-formed them into the dozens of modules that line the store. The naturalistic shapes, a nod to Erwin Hauer’s famed sculptural walls, mask hours of number crunching. Ripples in the display panels hide shelves and lighting, and the folds in the walls trap glare, so the only shadows in the 215-square-foot store are cast by the jewelry itself. The effect is that Bohinc’s wares appear to float in midair. “The geometry is perfect,” Kebel says.
There’s a denlike, almost primal intimacy to the interior, but it’s built with sci-fi technology—imagine what Darth Vader’s bedroom might look like. That combination of organic forms and head-scratchingly precise geometry is Bohinc’s style writ large. Her Isis bracelet and Nefertiti necklace, made from gold-plated brass, look like ancient Egyptian accessories rendered in pixels on an eight-bit Nintendo. As she gave a teaser of her fall collection, which launches in July, Bohinc saw the connection too. “It’s gladiators and shields and things like that,” she said. “Antique relics but with space-age forms.” If only Darth Vader wore jewelry.