This month marks two years since the second London-based Christian Liaigre showroom opened on the majestic corner where Conduit Street and Savile Row meet.
“The brand had grown a lot in the previous ten to 15 years, so the Mayfair store was a good addition to the first London shop in Fulham, which opened around 13 years ago,” says UK managing director Asli Bohane.
The design house was originally focused on large, commissioned projects when its founder Christian Liaigre launched the studio in 1985, closely followed by the opening of the first showroom in Paris in 1987. From then it grew relatively organically, according to Bohane, and Liaigre opened showrooms “wherever he thought would be nice”. Controversially, the 2015 Mayfair opening trialled a new retail driven direction for the brand.
“Having two locations creates two different atmospheres: because of the shape of the Mayfair showroom and the big windows, we can display our furniture on a larger scale as well as artwork and big accessories,” explains Bohane.
"Because of the shape of the Mayfair showroom and the big windows, we can display our furniture on a larger scale as well as artwork and big accessories”
Indeed, the Conduit Street showroom is a glorious, sunny space, and it looks as immaculate now as when it first opened. Bohane describes the Fulham branch as “more like a little home”, yet the Mayfair store evokes a similar cosiness, just on a larger scale. This ambience can be attributed to Christian Liaigre’s unconventional creative approach. Rather than releasing collections according to the regimented fashion seasons, the brand tends to develop new pieces from private projects and commissions.
Bohane leads me to the curved Safran sofa that was originally made for a yacht. The arc was included so that the chair would align neatly with the contours of the boat, however designers realised afterwards that this feature actually allows people to talk and engage more comfortably than the typical straight shape.
“I’d say the brand aesthetic is refined, simple, contemporary and classic. We always try to keep the lines very pure, it’s not about adding details just for the sake of adding them; functionality is very important,” says Bohane.
“Every bit of furniture is designed for a particular project so it’s very important for us to think about the way of life of our clients. The location is very much a part of the aesthetic.”
Bohane points out the Citron table lamp, another mainline piece that was initially designed for a yacht. Everything on the yacht was very square and boxy so the designer decided to introduce some curves to the scheme. One of the major considerations when creating pieces for boats is the weight, so to make it lighter the designer hollowed out the base, resulting in a simple yet striking shape.
“It works beautifully,” says Bohane. “The amazing thing about our products is that they seem so simple, even if you don’t necessarily know the details and the reason why a certain shape is there.”
“It is, in a way, sustainable by nature – we design pieces to last forever”
In addition to functionality, sustainability is a significant characteristic of the Christian Liaigre house. The founder grew up in the countryside, which inspired him to work with earthy materials such as wood and bronze: “It is, in a way, sustainable by nature – we design pieces to last forever,” says Bohane.
The brand’s quality craftsmanship and careful design process mean that very little is removed from the collection: it keeps growing and expanding, much like a home. While the larger Mayfair space can show off big pieces and arrangements, smaller objects are now filling the shelves too, in order to cater for the new breed of customer that this location attracts. These are clients that, according to Bohane, “often want to take something with them”. In fact, the Conduit Street showroom has prompted the development of a new accessories line that will be revealed sporadically throughout the year, launching with the Hugo lacquer trays which have been designed to fit snugly on the arm of a sofa.
“London is the international place, so it appeals to all of our international clients. They might also go to Paris and New York, but if they come to London they will come to Mayfair, not Fulham,” says Bohane. “London was the first city where we tried the second showroom as a real strategy to see how it would work, and it’s been a great idea,” says Bohane.
The Mayfair experiment has certainly paid off. Now all eyes are on Paris and New York.
52 Conduit Street, W1S, christian-liaigre.fr/en