the fashion of design: listen studio
Listen Studio seamlessly mix fashion, architecture, sculpture and design.
photography James Ari King
Although only young, Listen Studio is making waves in London's fashion and furniture design communities. In the last year studio boss Joel Beach has redone all the interiors of the Ally Capellino shop on New Cavendish Street - which has just reopened its doors to the public - collaborated with menswear designers Itokawa Film on a series of marbled resin sculptures in tandem with their collection, and transformed an old bookies on the Cambridge Heath Road into the minimalist, appointment-only Strut Archive space; a lending library of rare fashion where Kanye comes to research, and the likes of Ashley Williams host sample sales.
Aspiring artists and fashion designers are everywhere these days it seems, but Joel is the only up-and-coming furniture designer I have ever met. It is a much more hidden world. Below he suggests the secret of making a memorable shop space, and some places that we might experience one.
How did this start?
I studied sculpture. So I came out of school with an idea of being a sculptor but it was at a point where sculpture, really, was an elastic thing. I was using concrete in my work and because of this I was commissioned to make some concrete furniture and display units for a shop in Soho - for Underground Shoes, which is still there - and it was a project that just opened my eyes towards making that kind of work.
After that you designed the Strut Archive space. What did you do with that?
We installed an aluminium ceiling and designed various furniture pieces, all in blackened steel. It was very stripped back. The furniture was really, really minimalist, so it could change function as the space could change around. The key piece of furniture for me was a black steel coffee table that could break up into these three boxes: becoming plinths, or a small bench, as well as coming back together as a table for meetings.
What sort of atmosphere were you aiming at?
Well one of the reference points was a film I was shown as we were talking about the project, by Yuri Pattison. The video is just a roaming camera walking the corridors of this data centre just outside of Stockholm called Pionen [which once hosted data for Wikileaks and Pirate Bay]. It's actually built into the mountain and there's a really science-fiction feel to the whole space, but it's also got that archive style and it's storing information. So it's almost this James Bond villain hangout, with this eerie vibe to it.
How did the collaboration with Itokawa Film come about?
Sam [Membery] and Jim [Ari King] I know have always wanted the label to not just be about clothing, but as broad as they can possibly make it. That was absolutely the ambition from the start so to be involved in some furniture pieces, or some objects outside of the clothing was always an interest.
My contribution was some resin vases as part of the autumn/winter 15 collection: giant blocks of resin, quite sculptural pieces. Now we are already talking about taking it a step further next season, about making some jewellery pieces or maybe some accessories. I think we might actually be sharing a showroom in Paris this year, and having a proper mix of furniture and clothing all together, and seeing how that goes.
Tell us about your latest project: the Ally Capellino shop?
This was a collaboration with Dutch interior designer Erjan Borren, and the way I approached it was lots of different furniture pieces - very individual pieces - that come together to make one space. A utilitarian space with large fabric panels and powder-coated metals, with counters topped with resin and tables and cabinets topped with terrazzo. The space is quite militantly grey before the products get there, and then it's the products that really stand out.
What is the secret of designing a shop?
It's a key question... I think, if you think of the spaces that you've been to and enjoyed there will be first an element to the space that is very separate to what you've actually gone in to see, and although you're enjoying it separately, it's also extending what the brand does in a big way.
An example for me was I went to Antwerp to visit some of the shops there, to have a look at the concept stores, and the Ann Demeulemeester store has these kind of strange little garden spaces out the back. Which of course are totally separate to the store itself, but it just fulfils that whole experience when you discover these little spaces, and it really stays with you.
What if I wish to visit an interesting shop space in London, where should I go?
Perhaps, the Hostem Store on Redchurch. They had a great store design originally anyway, but they extended into the higher levels and there's a nice contrast between the two spaces now. You've got quite an earthy, quite a dimly lit lower space - lots of raw canvas materials - but as you go up the staircase at the back it becomes very different, there's this metal parquet floor and this light, lofty area at the top. It's very hidden from Redchurch Street, so it's quite a discovery to go up there.
And of course I definitely recommend visiting the Marylebone store, the Ally Capellino store, now it's open.
Text Dean Kissick
Photography James Ari King and Winter Vandenbrink