Many shops inside Crystals use an elaborate centerpiece to lure people inside. No one has gone as far as Fendi. A 50-foot-wide marble replica of Rome’s Trevi Fountain towers along the opposite side of its Cor-ten steel entrance. The marble was shipped in from Italy in 19 pieces, and was carved by hand by Italian manufacturers Spazio Scenico. “If Rome existed in modern times it would be Las Vegas,” a Fendi spokesperson put it. The classical fountain offsets a modern (but still weighty and, yes, baroque) palette that includes metallic room dividers; gold, silver, and salmon-colored travertine walls; ribbed laminate walls that create a sense of movement; and lava stone floors. Bulgari has a water feature, too: a large tub and backlit fountain meant to resemble a melting glacier. Stella McCartney corralled a giant crystal horse made of 8,000 Swarovski crystals as its showpiece. As for facades, Chanel went abstract, Christian Dior did LED, and Paul Smith chose colorful Mondrian-like patterns.
Top: Sam Lubell [Click to enlarge.]
Though the flash may dazzle, it also shows some real architectural confidence. Tiffany, for instance, opens to a huge stone and glass staircase, lit from beneath, emphasizing the curve of the stairs that shines through the 85-foot-tall glass façade. Marni’s smooth, grey-painted curved walls suggest mid-century modern envisioned by a modern day fabricator. They have been given a randomly convex and concave “bubble” relief pattern; backlit, they create shadows and a playful graphic composition of textures while occasionally showcasing accessories. The central display consists of a twisted metallic tube seemingly suspended in midair, called the “lasso,” that encircles the boutique.
While Crystals is still the most architecturally adventurous retail group in Las Vegas, the newest kid on the Strip is the Cosmopolitan next door. That establishment, too, focuses on design, but to portray a slightly younger, edgier, and more hedonistic charm. Stores are slightly less expensive, and emphasize a breezy, light, and modern aesthetic. But they still don’t shy away from the “gotcha” design element that captures the imagination. Droog, a contemporary furniture store that also considers itself a gallery, utilizes uplit glass floors to show off its wares; All Saints Spitalfields put hundreds of antique Singer sewing machines in its window displays; Beckley shows off sexy white curves like its neighbor at Louis Vuitton, but without the high priced materials. Despite the cheaper price tags here (versus Crystals, where a matchbox car will cost you $90), design is front and center, not cowering in the background. Is Vegas regaining the influential design edge it had in its Rat Pack glory days? The whole city seems to be on hold now so we don’t know. But give it another year and we’ll see if this is the new Vegas or just a blip on the city’s notoriously ADD radar.