It is risky to try to express luxury for an 18-28-year-old, wealthy male audience – and not turn them totally off. Rafael de Cardenas of New York’s Architecture at Large took on this challenge with the rebuilding of Ubiq Philadelphia, the destination of choice for sneakerheads from far and wide. As sneakers and streetwear do not lend themselves all that well to wine-colored velvet or chandeliers, de Cardenas approached the redesign of the large store with a cold and bold, simplified black-and-white palette. Hard, black-lacquered surfaces, op-inspired patterns, harsh lighting and simplified displays mix with beautiful detailing and white ceilings and floors.
Thrown into the mix is a posh back room, where streetwear is displayed in a traditional gentlemen’s tailor room complete with dark-wood panels, antique furnishings, restored Victorian plasterwork and a magnificent, restored mahogany fireplace. It is all a nice fusion of mansion and showroom, inviting and cold, pared-down and rich. With his approach, de Cardenas has managed to teeter in the wobbly middle-space between the reassuring – ‘you can tell this is expensive, can’t you?’ – and the nonchalant ‘I don’t really care.’
The entire store is up about a meter from street level, so you can be assured that you are seen, day or night, on display, shopping for your latest pair of Clae, Stussy Deluxe, Vans Vault, Original Fake, UMBRO by Kim Jones and many others. Apparently, rap artist Kanye West has shopped there, so it should be good to go for the rest. By Tuija Seipell