Trendy 20-somethings with spiky hair and designer sunglasses perched atop their heads (never mind that it’s mid-March, and the sun couldn’t be any weaker if it were the middle of the night) flick through the rails of merchandise.
A whippet-thin teenage girl, clad in a midriff-baring shirt and skintight, studded jeans, emerges from a dressing room. Shimmying in time to the music pumping from the overhead speakers, she slouches, pouts and finally retreats when her mum orders her to put on something less revealing.
A tiny girl in a ballerina outfit skips around the displays, while an even tinier boy propels his toy truck across the floor.
This is not, it is fair to say, what I’d expected to find at the two-week-old Dolce & Gabbana store on London’s New Bond Street. But then, as it turns out, I’m not in Dolce & Gabbana at all.
As an extraordinarily patient floor manager explains to me, I’m actually standing in D&G. And that, for all ye uninitiated, means the store stocks flamboyant, Italian label Dolce & Gabbana’s hipper, less expensive D&G clothing and accessories line – leaving the couture stuff to the fully-fledged fashion boutique down the road.
Aahh… right. At first, expecting something luxurious, or at least something with a bit of bling-bling flash, I’d felt seriously let down by Italian architect Rodolfo Dordoni’s store design.
The vast ‘D&G’ plastered across the facade and the door’s garish, black-and-white ‘Pull’ handle looked, I sniffed to my husband, tacky.
The interior’s warehouse-like open spaces, the pale grey walls and floors, the sharp-edged metal display cases and the monolithic black staircase, which winds upwards from the lower-ground menswear floor to the first-floor womenswear department, just seemed awfully functional.
But once I’ve established where I am and have stopped judging the space for what it is not, I have to admit that Dordoni’s design works. D&G caters for a predominantly young crowd, after all, and as such has to have an interior that can endure more wear and tear than that at, say, its more grown-up sister label.
Which is when it strikes me: the new D&G resembles nothing so much as the nightclubs I used to love in my teens and early 20s. There’s the loud dance music, for a start – ‘Do it again, do it again, do it again, unnhhhh’ – and the stage lighting, and the mirrors and smoky glass, and the occasional retro shag rug.
A party atmosphere definitely pervades the place. And this feeling is only enhanced by the candy-coloured clothes and accessories – this spring is all about acidic pinks, yellows and oranges and 1960s-style swirls and florals, according to D&G – and the odd splashes of colour in the space.
One particularly nice touch is the huge, orange ‘D&G’ affixed to a window-front glass partition on the first floor. When the sky clears and sunlight streams through the letters, the room is suffused with a warm glow.
All in all, New Bond Street’s new D&G store is an overwhelmingly utilitarian space, yes, but it also offers a bit of fun. I must make one suggestion, however. The second-rate mannequins with the horrifying fright wigs need to vacate the main window display. Immediatamente.
After all, D&G may be less expensive than Dolce & Gabbana proper, but that’s no reason why it should look cheap.
D&G Boutique is at 53-55 New Bond Street, London W1