“Fashion meets art and design” at Pittsburgh boutique by NWDS


Global team NWDS took a spontaneous approach to designing the Tons fashion boutique in Pittsburgh, which contains a mix of modest materials and iconic furniture pieces.

The Tons store in the city’s East Liberty neighbourhood occupies a long, narrow building with its shorter side facing the street.

Store with concrete breezeblock displays and metal cans on the ceiling
The Tons store features a variety of “mundane” materials, including concrete breezeblocks and metal cans

Formerly an atelier, the two-storey structure was reimagined by NWDS to create a light-filled destination “where high-end fashion meets art and design”.

“Inside is a spacious and light-filled interior that now hosts a multifunctional venue designed to meet the needs of a modern-day sartorialist equally interested in fashion, art, and culture,” said the group.

Seating area beside clothing display
In the lobby, new apparel collections are displayed below a tapestry-like artwork

Designing the interiors of the 400-square-metre space involved dividing up the floor plan into several distinct areas that all flow together, but serve different purposes.

Throughout the various retail and office areas, a selection of unexpected materials were combined and layered.

Walls splashed with white paint
Some of the walls are splashed or streaked with white paint

Immediately through the glass front door is a lobby where new collections are presented.

Here, product displays were built from concrete breeze blocks, while the upper walls above the clothing rails were dressed in transparent plastic curtains.

Glass panels partition different retail areas
Glass panels are used to partition different retail areas

The ceiling above was covered with metal tubes of different lengths and diameters, and gives way to a double-height space where tall tapestry-like artworks by Sasha Brodsky hang over opposite walls, and white paint was seemingly dragged across another.

“There was a lot of spontaneity and many design decisions taken on site: some surfaces were uncovered and left in an unfinished state, and some were splashed with white paint,” NWDS said.

Frank Gehry Wiggle Chair next to clothing displayed on rails
A selection of iconic furniture designs can be found around the store, including Frank Gehry’s Wiggle Chair

Further along, fitting rooms are lined up behind black and white streaked partitions to one side, facing a room defined by glass panels that hosts monobrand products.

Towards the back, a lounge area that also displays shoes is reached by descending a short flight of stairs, which run parallel to a raised, built-in seating area.

Built-in seating area in front of shoe display room
A built-in seating area at the back of the store overlook the sunken shoe room

The lower floor level in this space results in a higher ceiling, which NWDS took advantage of by extending a mural the full height behind a wall-mounted shoe display.

A staircase at the very back leads to the upper storey, where retail displays and office areas for store employees sit side by side, and a photography studio is in full view.

“Inside Tons, the client space and the workspace are blended,” said NWDS.

“Buyers and managers have their work desks right next to the sale rails on the first floor, and store visitors are welcome to take a peek at the fashion photo shoot happening right there at Tons.”

Upper-floor rooms partitioned by artworks and glass balustrades
The unfinished aesthetic continues across the upper storey, where retail and offices spaces are blended

Throughout the store are a selection of iconic furniture pieces that continue the theme of unexpected materials and functionality.

They include metal-mesh Hi Tech armchairs by Piero Lissoni, a Mate chair by (A+B) Dominoni, Quaquaro that doubles as shelving, and Frank Gehry‘s compressed cardboard Wiggle Chair for Vitra.

“An interior comprising modest materials is a backdrop for high-end Italian furniture pieces, a collection carefully curated by the NWDS team,” said the designers.

Photography studio viewed from across a double-height void
An open photography studio allows shoppers to watch shoots as they happen

NWDS was established in 2013 as a team of architects, designers, curators and researchers from cities including New York, Tbilisi, Moscow, Paris, Berlin, Yerevan, Lisbon and Dubai. The group’s projects span residential, retail, hospitality, culture, exhibition design and more.

Other recently completed boutiques that feature unusual materials include the Boyy flagship in Milan, which reveals layers of the store’s history, and a Parisian jewellery store featuring rippled sheets of acrylic.

The photography is by Ekaterina Izmestieva and Alexandra Ribar.

Project credits:

Design concept: NWDS
Supervision and project management: Brnz Bureau
Lighting design: Natalia Markevich
Art: Sasha Brodsky


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