Benchmark makes furniture for Gabriela Hearst’s first London outpost
Designed by Foster + Partners, the store design follows the brand’s inherent sustainable ethos with every single detail including the furniture informed by Green principles
Gabriela Hearst, the sustainable global fashion brand with an uncompromising commitment to the environment, has opened its first London outpost, designed by Foster + Partners. Having created a pioneering model for ecologically responsible clothing and accessories, the New York-based label’s first London store is underpinned by a similar sustainable ethos and care for the environment in its materiality and operation.
Located on the corner of Brook Street and Davies Street, the two-storey store occupies a prime site in the heart of London’s West End. Sustainability has dictated every detail of the design of the store, including the furniture choices. Here Foster + Partners sought to partner with Benchmark, for whom they have previously designed the OVO collection.
Benchmark, the leading British furniture maker based in Kintbury, crafts pieces which have a focus on well-being and sustainability. Utilising natural materials over synthetic alternatives, the organic designs heighten wellness. Consisting of a knitwear cabinet, clothes rails, coffee table, and shelving units, the range represents a family of furniture that expresses its structure and exudes a sense of warmth. The pieces have a soft geometry with integrated LED lighting, vegedtable tanned leather and accented with rose gold edging – a signature colour for Gabriela Hearst. The soft curves and warm materiality of the furniture pieces echo the comfortable and relaxed aesthetic of the entire interior.
The knitwear cabinet features a thin timber frame with glass panels on top and three sides, with three tiered drawers that can be pulled out to display more of the collection. The coffee tables were crafted from London Plane Timber and feature timber frames with Carrera marble tops. Rounded edges characterise the designs and these are mirrored in the display cabinets which frame some of Hearst’s signature pieces. The display cabinets feature drawers and carcasses that are leather wrapped whilst the shelves feature leather panels on the top face with integrated lighting. The clothes rail is wrapped in leather and defined by a similar timber frame that almost dematerialises to highlight the clothes on display.
To preserve the transparency and unencumbered views of the interior, the store windows do not display mannequins or products but frame the interiors as two distinct settings – a clothing section that contains bespoke racks along with the relaxed lounge seating, and another space featuring accessories and knitwear. The interior spaces are designed to flow seamlessly, creating a relaxed experience where the clothing and accessories are the primary protagonist.
On the collaboration, Mike Holland, head of Industrial Design, Foster + Partners said, “The furniture for Gabriela Hearst is rooted in sustainability and a sense of place. It is made primarily of recycled and natural materials, such as vegetable-tanned leather and storm-felled London Plane timber, which provides a wonderful connection to the city. Each piece has been conceptualised as a space frame, with a warm combination of materials and soft geometry that ties the entire range together. Working with Benchmark, the elements blend specialist crafts in timber and leather while integrating LED lighting to create a unique ensemble.”
The materials palette throughout the store comprises sustainably sourced or recycled elements and avoids the use of harmful chemicals in their production. The majority of the furniture is made from London Plane timber sourced from a tree that fell during a storm in Lincoln. The clothes rails, coffee table, knitwear cabinet and shelving units have also been designed by the practice and manufactured by Benchmark.
Benchmark’s co-founder and managing director Sean Sutcliffe commented, ‘The opportunity to make the Gabriella Hearst furniture brought challenges and rewards. The team at Foster + Partners were clear about their union for matching simplicity of form with uncompromising craft. It was akin to jewellery making on a large scale. Every joint and every stitch had to be equal in craftsmanship to the clothes displayed. As cabinet makers, it gave us the opportunity to show the very best of what we can do, and I do think it is the most beautiful shop in London.’