The New Lambert & Fils New York Showroom is, Like the Brand Itself, an Incubator for Collaboration
To celebrate Lambert & Fils’s 10th anniversary back in early March, the Montreal-based brand’s founder, Samuel Lambert, traveled to New York City to sign a lease on a 1,500-sq.ft. space on the corner of Hudson and Duane Streets in Tribeca, fulfilling a longtime dream of opening a showroom in Manhattan. Of course, we all know what happens next: Within 24 hours of signing the lease, the city was in lockdown. “It was pretty much inked paper and then total chaos,” laughs Lambert. “But we took the challenge as a part of the process. What does a showroom even mean in 2021?”
Lambert says he knows what a showroom was supposed to mean, pre-COVID. “Every time we come to New York, there’s this sense of magic when you go to visit other showrooms,” the designer says. “You see how people are interacting with the community.” The brand had hoped to create an interactive, more experiential space in the vein of Caffé Populaire, the weeklong café they hosted in Milan last year, where an international crowd gathered for coffees and dinner parties each day during the fair. “I don’t know if it’s the Québecois background, but hosting and parties and inviting people into your world and feeding them and drinking and having quality time is very much our DNA,” says Lambert; in the early days of the brand, the parties were at Lambert’s house, with oysters and cocktail attire. For the opening party in New York, they had planned to do an installation with food artist Laila Gohar where everyone would eat with their hands — a quaint relic of our previous life that seems almost laughable right now considering the current state of things.
Who knows what the showroom can be, then, in a post-vaccine future, but for now, says Lambert, the showroom can act as a “kind of a laboratory. It was important for us to be directly on the street, to have direct contact with people. It’s a big window, literally, into our process.” The showroom is housed in a 19th-century neo-Grec and Romanesque Revival building with huge windows overlooking Duane Park; it had previously been the home office of an architect, so there was a lot of wood and dusty carpet and “charm from another time. I think nobody had put love into the space for like 40 years,” says Lambert. With help from the Brooklyn-based architecture studio re-a.d, the historic space was restored and arranged as a white box in order to keep the focus on the objects.
For the showroom opening, Lambert & Fils launched Atelier, a new collection that explodes the possibilities of some of the more utilitarian designs from their archive, allowing Lambert to create signature showpieces to match the desires of New York’s higher-end clientele. Five collections are represented in the showroom to start, with more to come: “Generally, when we start a new project, it takes around two years to develop,” says Lambert. “For this, I was a bit too impatient. I decided to take a few of our existing collections and reinvent them. The space has 15-foot ceilings, so I wondered, ‘How could I use the alphabet of these collections to create something more like poetry?’”
The showroom also features work by fellow designers: wallpaper by Calico, huge arched mirrors by Bower, and rugs and tapestries by cc-tapis. “It’s a physical manifestation of relationships we’ve developed over time,” says Lambert. “What better way to celebrate those friendships than to invite them to show in our showroom?”
IMAGES BY CHRIS MOTTALINI