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Eclectic Collaboration

Fashion designer and creator of the Claude Maus label, Rob Maniscalco has opened his first store in Manchester Lane, Melbourne. Stephen Crafti reports.

Eclectic Collaboration


May 9th, 2008

The new store is steeped in history, with the leopard skin wallpaper of the previous owner visible through a shredded section on one wall. “In the seventies, it was home to Merivale and Mr. John. They set the fashion scene throughout that period,” says Maniscalco.

After the iconic fashion label moved on in the 1980s, the building floundered. Today, it is being transformed into the ‘Merigold’ apartments, with retail stores at ground level. “We essentially inherited a shell. The main feature was the high decorative ceiling,” says Maniscalco.

For this project, Maniscalco collaborated with Herbert Mason Architects, along with some of the artists he has worked with over the years – he studied fine art before moving on to fashion in the late 1990s.

These included architect and artist Jenny Berean (also employed with Herbert Mason), Starlie Geikie, Pat Foster and Sarah Parkes. “The space was large enough for us all to contribute,” says Maniscalco. And while there are different signatures throughout the store, the different brushstrokes come together beautifully.

Inspired by the work of artists such as Frank Stella and sculptors such as Donald Judd, the Claude Maus interior is also influenced by DIY housing books and magazines from the 1970s, appropriate, given the building’s history.

“In the seventies, many DYI’s made do with found materials. There was a sense of inventiveness,” says Maniscalco.

This inventiveness is showcased in the centre of the store. Elongated pine boxes of varying lengths appear to have been dropped into a random pile. A few light boxes, of similar proportion, illuminate the stack.

Used to display narrow men’s jeans, it’s a refreshing alternative to lines of stacked jeans on shelves. “We wanted to move away from traditional shop fittings,” says Maniscalco, who used the store’s central column to divide the men’s and women’s clothing.

The central column in the store was clad with recycled timber found in junkyards. This column, also a structural support, complements the over scaled macramé (designed by Sarah Parkes) used to support a clothing rack and pendent light fitting.

“It wasn’t the usual scenario with a fixed design from the start. It tended to evolve as each artist made a mark,” says Maniscalco. He also commissioned London-based Australian artist David Noonan to design a light fitting over the store counter. Made of timber, Noonan’s lamp has a strong Norwegian folk theme.

Most importantly, the collaborative design captures the feel of the Claude Maus label – simple, but with subtle detail. “Our clothing is quite minimal,” says Maniscalco. “But there’s surface treatment which you sometimes only notice when you put them on.”

Interior design Rob Maniscalco and Raffaele Cotroneo, in collaboration with architects Herbert & Mason

Claude Maus


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