By Anna Sekula Posted September 13, 2011, 12:45 PM EDT
NEW YORK In August, the Frye Company opened a store—its first freestanding retail location—in SoHo, and to mark the occasion a month later, threw a big bash downtown during Fashion Week. But rather than host hundreds of revelers in the new 6,000-square-foot flagship on Spring Street, the boot purveyor brought guests to the historic Cunard Building at the southern end of Broadway on Friday. Chosen specifically for its grand Renaissance-style architecture, travertine and marble details, and detailed frescoes, the imposing, early-20th-century site served as a reference to Frye's 147-year history, as well as a counterpoint to the clean lines of the event's design.
Creative agency Huge Conglomerate was charged with designing and producing the affair and looked to the aesthetic of the new store for inspiration, picking up on the vintage industrial fixtures. The result was a wood-heavy decor scheme with an array of artful details—from the 1950s-style bars and waitstaff attire, playful elevator panels and a bellhop, and drinks served in mason jars to a tiered supper-club-like seating area and tongue-in-cheek shoe shine station. Even the invitation, a nearly one-inch-thick block of wood stamped with the location and R.S.V.P. details, hinted at the aesthetic of the party.
To put the Frye Company's imprint on the venue without seeming nondescript against the intricate architectural details and soaring ceilings, Huge Conglomerate fashioned three walls with the help of retail display design studio Burke & Pryde. One freestanding structure, a larger-than-life version of the invitation marked by stained plywood and three-inch-thick birch ply lettering spelling out the brand's name, stood to the side of the entrance, acting as the backdrop for the red carpet arrivals area. A second, 14- by 12-foot wall, comprised of nearly 14,000 two-inch reclaimed oak blocks that formed a mosaic pattern, was placed at the main entrance.
The third, and most detailed, sat beyond the foyer in the main hall, its rough-hewn surface contrasted by the elegant silhouettes of starburst-framed mirrors that festooned its facade. This curved 16-foot-tall divider was as functional as it was decorative, built over an existing landmark counter left over from when an outpost of the U.S. Postal Service was the site's tenant. It housed—and effectively hid from sight—the event's technical crew at the top and composed the rear wall for a tiered supper-club-style seating area of banquettes and tables.
As much detail was paid to the bars, waitstaff, and restroom elevator. Behind custom wood bars with leather tops and old fashioned globe lamps, staffers in striped shirts and white aprons served cocktails in mason jars. The same attire was used for the servers, who passed hors d'oeuvres from Olivier Cheng on simple wooden trays. And as an elevator was the only way to transport guests to the bathroom on the second floor, the producers decorated this space with custom wall panels that evoked residential design with chair rail moldings and James Boyd wallpaper of framed silhouettes. To finish this, the elevator operator was dressed as a bellhop.
For entertainment, the Frye Company brought in DJ Cassidy to spin tunes before the surprise musical guest—Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears—took the stage.