Hong Kong Tatler - - Con­tents -

The David Collins Stu­dio is renowned for its pas­sion for per­fec­tion

Quite pos­si­bly, you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced a David Collins in­te­rior with­out even re­al­is­ing it. If you’ve en­joyed a meal at The Wolse­ley in Lon­don fol­lowed by a drink at the Berke­ley ho­tel’s Blue Bar, or you’ve browsed the racks at Alexan­der Mcqueen, Bergdorf Good­man or Jimmy Choo, then you’ve prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­enced some of the de­sign magic for which the brand is renowned.

Un­for­tu­nately, Collins, the man be­hind the brand, died in July last year only three weeks af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with an ag­gres­sive form of skin can­cer. He was 58. A mag­netic and charm­ing char­ac­ter, he counted many

celebri­ties among his friends, from Madonna to Tom Ford to Gor­don Ram­say, all of whom paid en­thu­si­as­tic trib­ute to his hu­mour and de­sign skills.

Collins fell into de­sign al­most by ac­ci­dent 29 years ago, af­ter study­ing ar­chi­tec­ture in Dublin. He helped de­sign a friend’s home, which was seen by chef Pierre Koff­mann, who then en­listed Collins to de­sign his Lon­don res­tau­rant La Tante Claire. From there, things quickly took off.

Collins co-founded the David Collins Stu­dio with Iain Wat­son, now its manag­ing di­rec­tor. Wat­son re­calls, “The prac­tice started with UK projects and quickly gained a fol­low­ing, ini­tially with a num­ber of projects in New York and then ex­pand­ing through­out the USA.” David Collins Stu­dio went on to be­come one of the most suc­cess­ful and sought-af­ter res­tau­rant de­sign­ers of the past decade, though the team also worked on re­tail, ho­tel and res­i­den­tial projects.

“David’s pass­ing was all the more shock­ing be­cause it was un­ex­pected and very sud­den,” says Wat­son. “It was his ex­press wish for the stu­dio to con­tinue and, as such, it is of para­mount im­por­tance for us to strive to cre­ate great, in­no­va­tive and unique de­signs un­der his moniker.”

The in­te­ri­ors that Collins and his team de­signed have al­ways been de­fined by a hefty dose of glam­our and lux­ury, be­spoke touches and some­thing about the space that makes you feel at ease. Collins was famed for his love of blue—but also his pas­sion for per­fec­tion.

Cre­ative di­rec­tor Si­mon Rawl­ings re­calls, “He felt colour should never be straight out of the tin. I re­mem­ber when we were cre­at­ing the con­cept for the Blue Bar at the Berke­ley ho­tel—we used 14 or 15 lay­ers of blue to cre­ate the Wedge­wood ef­fect on the walls.”

The stu­dio has be­come renowned for its at­ten­tion to de­tail and bold use of colour, but it’s of­ten what you can’t see that makes its in­te­ri­ors truly unique. “Our in­te­ri­ors func­tion per­fectly,” Rawl­ings says. “From the out­set, way be­fore we think about what it looks like, we make sure the space works prop­erly. Whether that’s shift­ing a door to the left or com­pletely re­plan­ning a space, we re­ally pride our­selves on our knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of op­er­a­tions and how spa­ces work. If we don’t know, we find out.”

The ap­proach is sim­ple but ef­fec­tive, and has been con­tin­ued by the team af­ter the de­signer’s death. Rawl­ings ex­plains, “When you walk into a David Collins Stu­dio space, the ser­vice should be seam­less. There should be a sense of dis­creet lux­ury, which can come through a won­der­ful smell, the way it makes you feel, the right light­ing or tem­per­a­ture. It’s a whole bal­ance of all these el­e­ments.”

Re­cently the com­pany has ex­panded and broad­ened into new lo­cales. “The big­gest shift in re­cent years has been the Asian mar­ket cham­pi­oning our de­sign aes­thetic,” says

Wat­son. “Our ap­proach to the de­sign process has been stim­u­lated by new ref­er­ences, tech­niques, sup­pli­ers and part­ners through­out Asia.” In turn, the team has been im­mers­ing it­self in Asian cul­tures.

“This is to en­sure that the de­sign is in har­mony with lo­cal val­ues, cus­toms and be­liefs,” says Wat­son. “This can be seen in colours that are avoided, or in hav­ing more pri­vate din­ing in restau­rants. Re­cent feed­back has been that Asian clients ap­pre­ci­ated our use of a se­lec­tion of lo­cal tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als while bring­ing our mod­ern de­sign in­ter­pre­ta­tion to the project.”

Rawl­ings has been over­see­ing mul­ti­ple projects the stu­dio is work­ing on in the re­gion, now num­ber­ing 39 ven­tures with lo­cal ar­ti­sans, in­clud­ing one with a com­pany in Thai­land that makes tra­di­tional roof tiles. The team has col­lab­o­rated on new tech­niques— and Thai roof tiles are now be­ing im­ported to Lon­don for use there.

David Collins Stu­dio de­signed the in­te­ri­ors of 200 sump­tu­ous The Ritz- Carl­ton Res­i­dences in the im­pres­sive Ma­hanakhon tower in Bangkok, which was de­signed by ar­chi­tect Ole Sheeren. The firm will also de­but the first ever Vogue Lounge in the build­ing. It is also in the early plan­ning stages for the Ma­hasamutr coun­try club and vil­las in Hua Hin, 200 kilo­me­tre south of Bangkok; the ar­chi­tect on that project is Kengo Kuma.

“It has a very mod­ern Ja­panese style. We were in­spired by the bright blue of the sea and sky, and the vivid or­ange of the earth for our colour scheme,” says Rawl­ings. “The ar­chi­tec­ture makes it look like all the build­ings have been folded. We took that idea of the folds and put that into the vo­cab­u­lary of our de­sign. They’re launch­ing the first house at the end of this year, and it will be ready at the end of next year.”

In Hong Kong, David Collins Stu­dio has also re­cently worked on The Con­ti­nen­tal, a new res­tau­rant for the space pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by Do­mani in One Pa­cific Place, which is sched­uled to open this month. “We’re work­ing within Thomas Heather­wick’s ar­chi­tec­ture, with its won­der­ful rib­bon ceil­ing, and we’re putting in a res­tau­rant which is go­ing to be Euro­pean-style all-day din­ing,” says Rawl­ings. “What we’re try­ing to do with the space is cre­ate a style that works in har­mony with the ar­chi­tec­ture. No mat­ter what time of day you go, you will have a won­der­ful but also dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Wher­ever you are in the world, you won’t be far from a David Collins Stu­dio de­sign. The firm has also been busy un­veil­ing the flag­ship Alexan­der Mcqueen store in Tokyo this sum­mer, as well as store open­ings for the brand in Hong Kong and Chengdu.

“When I set out to cre­ate a new con­cept, I’m think­ing about how it’s go­ing to make the client feel—and that’s the same whether it’s a res­tau­rant space or res­i­den­tial home,” says Rawl­ings. “You have to make the cus­tomer feel spe­cial, then ev­ery­thing grows from there.”


grand de­signs A 2003 ren­o­va­tion by David Collins Stu­dio trans­formed the for­mer Wolse­ley Mo­tors show­room into an el­e­gant Lon­don din­ing es­tab­lish­ment

min­istry of the in­te­rior Clock­wise from top: the Jimmy Choo bou­tique on Rodeo Drive in Bev­erly Hills; David Collins; the stu­dio’s cur­rent team is ( from left) Lewis Tay­lor, Si­mon Rawl­ings, Iain Wat­son and David Ken­dall

God is in the de­tails From top: a dec­o­ra­tive hang­ing in the Alexan­der Mcqueen bou­tique in Tokyo; the Blue Bar at the Berke­ley

Fit for A Mcqueen The re­cently un­veiled Alexan­der Mcqueen flag­ship store in Tokyo

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